Bishop Dermot Farrell
The changing reality of the parishes of Ossory presents a challenge that cannot be ignored according to Bishop Dermot Farrell.
Falling numbers of priests will mean that the number of Masses will have to be reduced and parishes will be re-organised.
The Bishop of Ossory, in a pastoral letter, said that he was reading and responding to ‘the signs of the times’. The letter stated that the number of diocesan priests under the retirement age of 75 will be at least halved in the next ten years.
The document states that in 2019, 86,000 people live in the Diocese of Ossory; spread over 42 parishes, that gather in 89 churches especially for the Sunday.
A recent survey revealed that 24% of people attend Mass every weekend. For this approximately 18,500 people, there are 142 Masses; some are attended by several hundred people, while others are attended by just a few people.
“We need to consider how we can serve our parishes in the best way possible, taking into account the new situation in which we find ourselves,” he said.
The Bishop also states that responding to this change will involve the reorganisation of parishes and collobaration among groups of parishes and concludes that it will lead to a change in the number and times of Masses. He also adds that as a religious community ‘we have a responsibility therefore to pool our talents and resources, in order to strengthen and encourage’.
Bishop Farrell concedes that the necessary changes ‘may result in a certain loss’ but contends that they will also yield a gain.
During the past year, a group of people and laity and worked with the Bishop to formulate proposals which involves creatively exploring and embracing new models to sustain a viable and vibrant future for the parishes of the Diocese.
The Bishops said in his letter that ‘it is not about the suppression or amalgamation of parishes’ but it ‘will involve parishes working together in new ways’. He also remarked there would be no change to the number and times of Masses without consultation.
“It takes time to discover the changing needs of local faith communities and to match these with the available resources to permit a better celebration of the Eucharist.”
The plan being explored with parishes involves gathering all 42 of them into 14 groups.