Hard Facts

Source: SSPX Ireland

Masses will not be said at any church in the Diocese of Limerick next Tuesday, April 25th – the first time since Catholic Emancipation in 1829 that this has happened in any Irish diocese.

Last November, Bishop Brendan Leahy warned that a chronic shortage of priests, coupled with falling Mass attendances, could lead to “some churches” having Mass “every second Sunday or one Sunday a month”.

Limerick diocese has a Catholic population of 184,340 in 60 parishes, with 94 churches. It has 83 active priests, made up of 45 parish priests and 38 curates, with just 10 of them under the age of 50.

For the entire country of Ireland, there are currently 67 men studying for the priesthood – 55 at St Patrick’s College Maynooth and 12 at the Irish College in Rome. Maynooth was designed to cater for 500 seminarians. It has just over a tenth of that number now. Meanwhile, the average age of the Irish Catholic diocesan priest hovers at around 67. They retire at 75.

A 2013 study found that three-quarters of Ireland’s priests were then aged between 45 and 74, with the largest proportion (27.1 per cent) in the 65-74 age group. Altogether in 2013, 64.9 per cent of Irish priests were over 55, while, as the study put it, “the proportions of priests in the sub-44 age groups are decreasing”. In 2013 that latter figure was 11.9 per cent.

Last month, the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois Francis Duffy said three parishes in his diocese no longer have a resident priest: “This trend of a declining number of clergy is set to continue.”

He said that “by 2030, over the next 13 years, 28 of our 53 diocesan priests will reach the retirement age of 75 years”. There would then be 25 priest to serve 41 parishes.

The Dublin archdiocese does not have a priest under the age of 40. In 2014 there were a total of 419 priests serving its 1,159,000 Catholics in 199 parishes with a total 238 churches. In 13 years’ time, by 2030, there are expected to be 192 priests under 75 (retirement age) in the archdiocese.

The number of diocesan priests in the decade 2002 to 2012, went from 3,203 in 2002 to 2,800 in 2012, a fall of 403, while the number of religious priests – members of congregations and orders – dropped from 2,159, to 1,888 in 2012. For the female congregations, the drop in numbers was bigger, down from 8,953 in 2002 to 6,912 in 2012 – a fall of 2,041.

Source: irishtimes.com