No guarantee Sunday Mass will be celebrated in every church in Limerick Diocese

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Bishop Brendan Leahy

LAY people will be playing a more active role in the Diocese of Limerick as Bishop Brendan Leahy concedes he can no longer guarantee that Mass will be celebrated in all churches in the diocese every Sunday due to a lack of priests.

Bishop Leahy says that members of the public will be asked to lead a range of services from prayers at funerals to the preparation of children for the sacraments as the Catholic Church deals with the decline in clergy numbers.

Announcing the latest series of clerical appointments, he said that rapid changes to deal with the decline in clergy numbers meant that “we must look towards lay leadership in parishes and work closer together in the Church”.

Three priests, Frs. Anthony O’Keefe, Frank Duhig and Ed Irwin, are retiring, while Fr. Séamus Madigan is returning to the Diocese from the Defence Forces where he served in recent years as Head Chaplain.

As a result of the decline in priest numbers, a number of pastoral units will be losing a clergy member, Bishop Leahy said.

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“It’s not news any longer to say the numbers of clergy in active ministry is declining rapidly. The ageing profile of clergy is also now very evident. It is clear at this stage that we can no longer guarantee the celebration of a Mass in each church in the Diocese each Sunday.

“The rapid changes are calling us to envisage and work towards putting in place new forms of lay leadership in our parish communities. We have already begun formation programmes to help lay people assume new pastoral roles. We need to build on this. We are hopeful others will step forward to offer their services.

“We will need lay people to lead prayers at funerals, at gravesides, to visit schools on behalf of the parish, to be involved in pastoral councils and baptismal teams, to help with the practical administration of parishes.

“Thankfully, in the Diocese of Limerick there are many fine lay people with competencies and faith commitment and they will contribute much to the future shape of things”.

In his letter to clergy to announce the changes, Bishop Leahy noted that working closely together will be essential as the Church adapts.

“We all need to work urgently to prepare for the new arrangements that are needed in the coming years. It is in working together, encouraging each other and facing challenges with peace of soul combined with realism and determination that we move forward,” he added.

Clerical Changes:

Bishop Leahy has made the following Clerical changes, with effect from September 10.

  • Canon Anthony Mullins, continuing as Vicar General and Co-Parish Priest in the Pastoral Unit of Abbeyfeale, Athea, Templeglantine, Tournafulla/Mountcollins, appointed as Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Ministry and Mission in the Diocese.
  • Fr. Éamonn Fitzgibbon, continuing as Vicar General appointed Episcopal Vicar for the Promotion of Synodality.
  • Canon Frank Duhig to retire as Co-Parish Priest and Moderator of the Pastoral Unit comprising of the parishes of Newcastle West, Mahoonagh/Feohanagh/Castlemahon, Monagea while continuing to assist in the Unit, and appointed as liaison priest for the pastoral care of priests of the Diocese.
  • Canon Anthony O’Keeffe to retire as Co-Parish Priest of the Pastoral Unit comprising of the parishes of Shanagolden/Foynes, Loughill/Ballyhahill, Glin, Coolcappa/Kilcolman, while continuing to assist pastorally in the Diocese.
  • Fr. Edwin Irwin to retire as Co-Parish Priest of the Pastoral Unit comprising of the parishes Knockaderry/Cloncagh, Rathkeale, Ballingarry/Granagh, while continuing to assist pastorally in the Diocese.
  • Canon Gerard Garrett appointed Moderator of the Pastoral Unit comprising of the parishes of St John’s, St. Michael’s, Sts. Patrick and Brigid’s and Monaleen.
  • Fr. Noel Kirwan, released from his duties as Co-Parish Priest and Moderator of the Pastoral Unit comprising the parishes of St John’s, St. Michael’s, Sts. Patrick and Brigid’s and Monaleen, and granted a period of sabbatical leave.
  • Fr. David Gibson, Co-Parish Priest in the Pastoral unit comprising of the parishes of St John’s, St. Michael’s, Sts. Patrick’s and Brigid’s and Monaleen, appointed as Parish Priest of the parishes of Rockhill/Bruree and Ballyagran/Colmanswell, and Moderator of that Pastoral Unit.
  • Canon Joseph Shire, Parish Priest of the parishes of Rockhill/Bruree and Ballyagran/Colmanswell, appointed as Co-Parish Priest in the Pastoral Unit comprising of St John’s, St. Michael’s, Sts. Patrick’s and Brigid’s and Monaleen.
  • Fr. Séamus Madigan, returning to the Diocese after his appointment as Head Chaplain to the Defence Forces, followed by a period of sabbatical leave, appointed as Co-Parish Priest in the Pastoral Unit made up of the parishes of St John’s, St. Michael’s, Sts. Patrick and Brigid’s and Monaleen.
  • Fr. Frank O’Dea, Co-Parish Priest and Moderator of the Pastoral Unit comprising of the parishes of Dromcollogher/Broadford, Kileedy/Ashford, Feenagh/Kilmeedy appointed as Co-Parish Priest and Moderator of the Pastoral Unit comprising of the parishes of Newcastle West, Mahoonagh/Feohanagh/Castlemahon, Monagea.
  • Fr. David Casey, Co-Parish Priest and Moderator of the Pastoral Unit made up of the parishes of Kilmallock, Effin/Garrienderk, Bulgaden/Martinstown appointed as Co-Parish Priest and Moderator of the Unit made up of the parishes of Dromcollogher/Broadford, Kileedy/Ashford, Feenagh/Kilmeedy.
  • Fr. Michael O’Shea, appointed as Co-Parish Priest and Moderator of a new Pastoral Unit made up of the parishes of Kilmallock, Kilfinane, Effin/Garrienderk, Bulgaden/Martinstown, Ardpatrick, Glenroe/Ballyorgan.
  • Fr. Willie Russell, Co-Parish Priest of the Pastoral Unit made up of the parishes of Rathkeale, Ballingarry/Granagh, Knockaderry/Cloncagh to be Co-Parish Priest of the Unit made up of parishes of Abbeyfeale, Athea, Templeglantine, Tournafulla/Mountcollins.
  • Fr. Derek Leonard, Co-Parish Priest and Moderator of the Pastoral Unit made up of the parishes of St. Nicholas’ and St. Mary’s, appointed as Co-Parish Priest and Moderator of the Unit made up of the parishes of Rathkeale, Ballingarry/Granagh, Knockaderry/Cloncagh.
  • Fr. Richard Davern, Co-Parish Priest of the Pastoral Unit made up of the parishes of Patrickswell/Ballybrown, St. Paul’s, Mungret/Raheen/Crecora appointed as Co-Parish Priest and Moderator of the Unit made up of the parishes of St. Mary’s and St. Nicholas.
  • Fr. Robin Thomas, ministering to the Syro-Malabar Community in Limerick, recalled to his Diocese to be replaced by another priest arriving from that Diocese.