A Catholic bishop has warned that before long, more parishes will not have any priests living in them.
The bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois Francis Duffy says it will affect every parish in his diocese.
However, it’s not just Ardagh and Clonmacnois; dioceses that take in various parts of the North West region now find they have no curates to help parish priests, with those parish priests themselves therefore having to cover wider areas.
In some cases, including in the Diocese of Elphin, lay deacons are doing work once done by priests.
The issue of aging priests and fewer new priests to help or replace them is becoming an increasing problem.
And it was starkly laid out most recently in a letter from the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois to parishes in his diocese.
Bishop Francis Duffy pulled no punches: He says that in the very near future, more parishes may not have a resident priest.
He says that already, three of his parishes do not have a priest living in them, and that’s a trend that’s set to continue.
In his diocese, there are no seminarians preparing for ordination.
By 2030, 28 of the diocese’s priests will reach the rertirement age of 75.
From this year on, as priests retire or are transferred, there will not be priests to replace them.
Bishop Duffy concluded his letter by asking parishioners for their input and suggestions as to how to meet this challenge.
He says it’s not about closing churches but about reimagining how people worship and pass on the faith.
Whatever the future holds, one thing’s definite; it will mean more lay involvement in the church and its activities.