The Archdiocese of Dublin has announced it will begin restructuring its 199 parishes into 53 parish partnerships in the new year as part of its efforts to offset the impact of a declining and ageing clergy.
The restructuring is part of the implementation of “Building Hope”, a framework for pastoral renewal in Dublin.
Each new parish partnership will bring together up to five parishes and the partnerships will operate under 15 umbrella deaneries across the diocese of Dublin. While individual parishes will retain their own parish councils, they will collaborate within their partnerships through new partnerships pastoral councils.
In an Advent pastoral letter titled The Time has Come, Archbishop Dermot Farrell explained: “In this way we can reach out beyond what any one parish might be able to facilitate or imagine.”
Fr Aquinas Duffy, parish priest of Cabinteely, explained that his parish will be part of the new partnership of Cabinteely, Johnstown/Killiney, Ballybrack/Killiney, Loughlinstown, Sallynoggin/Glenageary, Shankill, and Cherrywood and will have a population in excess of 60,000.
He said the move was necessitated by the lack of priests and volunteers and dwindling congregations in Dublin. “Through parish partnerships, different parishes are coming together and sharing what they have in order to adapt to the reality they are facing.” He stressed that each parish “will still remain independent even as priest numbers reduce within the partnership”.
The move comes as the Archdiocese of Tuam announced plans in a pastoral letter this Advent for lay-led liturgies when no priest is available to say Mass. Archbishop Francis Duffy told his flock that “the trend is downward” and that retirements, ill health, and so few replacements, meant that pastoral services would have to be reimagined.
Separately, the bishops in Ireland have decided to promote vocations to the diocesan priesthood through a year-long awareness campaign themed “Take the Risk for Christ” which will run from Good Shepherd Sunday, 30 April 2023.
They are also currently discussing draft national norms and guidelines for the lay Ministry of Catechist, which have been prepared by a working group, chaired by Bishop Kevin Doran.