14 November 2023, The Tablet

Dioceses challenged by ageing priests, lack of vocations

Dioceses challenged by ageing priests, lack of vocations

Bishop of Kilmore Martin Hayes

It is “becoming increasingly difficult” to make clerical changes in the Diocese of Kilmore due to the lack of vocations as well as the declining and ageing profile of the diocese’s priests, Bishop Martin Hayes has revealed. 

Writing about the challenges facing Kilmore in his pastoral letter, “Making Decisions and Preparing for the Future Together”, Bishop Hayes explained that by 2030 there will be just 27 priests ministering in the Kilmore which comprises 34 parishes and currently offers weekend masses in 95 churches and chapels.

At the moment there is just one seminarian preparing for priesthood and just 44 of Kilmore’s 64 priests are in active ministry. More than half of the diocese’s priests are aged over 70 and less than a quarter are currently under 60 years of age. 

The plan aims to explore how local churches can survive and thrive with a lay leadership and a reduced number of Sunday Masses.

Parish pastoral councils and parish communities will discuss how to enhance the role of lay people in parishes. 

“I see planning for the future of our diocese as an opportunity to bring lay people into their own as future faith leaders. I intend to support people in assuming leadership roles,” Bishop Hayes said. He set Easter 2024 as the goal for changes to take place.

Separately, Bishop Fintan Monahan has issued a Pastoral Letter, “Going Forward in Faith, Hope and Love”, to the people of the Diocese of Killaloe. On the role of women in the Church, he said it was a theme that emerged at every meeting in the diocese.

“I would like women to know that they are appreciated for the work they do in every parish. I urge an increased awareness of gender equality in all lay-led activities in parish life. We must scrutinise the issue of equality in the Church so that women will not feel patronised or merely accepted in a token fashion,” Bishop Monahan said.

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