FOUR Cork parishes are to lose their resident priests under new plans reflecting changing times for the Catholic Church in Ireland.
The West Cork parishes of Kilmeen, Kilmichael, and Murragh and Templemartin will lose their resident priests, as will the Minane Bridge parish of Tracton Abbey.
In future, parishes will work together in groupings, a minimum of three and maximum of six in size, with priests ministering across the “family of parishes”, and lay people playing a greater role in parish life.
Geographically the largest diocese in the country, Cork and Ross already has eight parishes with no resident priest.
Delegates from the 67 parishes of Cork and Ross were addressed by Bishop Fintan Gavin at two meetings to discuss the new structures. The first meeting took place earlier this month in Rosscarbery, and the second was on Sunday in the Rochestown Park Hotel.
The meetings heard the diocese will lose 14 priests this year, and the lack of new vocations was highlighted as delegates were told that while in 1996 the diocese had 160 priests, in 2019 it has 69, with two-thirds aged over 65.
Speaking toafter Sunday’s meeting, Enniskeane parish priest Fr Tom Hayes said the atmosphere at both meetings had been very positive.
“A lot of people said, we know this is where we’re at, but we’re more than happy to be part of re-invigorating our parishes and we’re more than happy to be a part of the responsibility for the parishes as well.” Fr Hayes said some people were saddened that their own parish would not have a resident priest, something he said would be a big change for parishes.
“It’ll be a change for priests as well, because, as Bishop Fintan said at the meetings, priests have really been trained to work mostly on their own in their own parish, and now, we’re going to be working in a family of parishes,” Fr Hayes said.
“We’ll be ministering in a small number of parishes, working with colleagues, and a closer co-working with lay people in parishes as well.
“We’re putting in foundation stones for a very new and different kind of Church, which we hope will meet the needs that are being brought about by change, and also the needs into the future as well, to bring the Gospel to a new generation,” he added.