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Falling priest numbers leads to reduction of Masses

Monsignor Joseph McGuinness.

PARISHIONERS in the Clogher Diocese, which includes large parts of West Tyrone, have been advised to expect the number of Masses to be reduced.

Church-goers were also been told in a Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Clogher, Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, that it will be ‘unavoidable’ that not every parish will have a resident parish priest. Instead, it is expected that the administration of some parishes will be overseen by a neighbouring PP, even though all parishes will have a resident priest.

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Entitled ‘The Future Mission of Our Parishes’ the pastoral letter was published at the weekend.

In it, Monsignor McGuinness, highlighted the reduction in the number of active priests in the diocese during the past two decades. There are currently just 58 priests described as being in ‘active ministry,’ almost 50 per-cent of whom are over the age of 65.

Of these, 14 have retired from administration as parish priests and only seven are under the age of 50.

Priests in the Tyrone pastoral area parishes of Clogher, Eskra, Fivemiletown, Fintona, Dromore and Trillick are due to meet with Monsignor McGuinness in the next few weeks to arrange the schedules for weekend and weekday Masses and other liturgies.

“Lay ministry within our church is central to its mission. Fully appreciating and expanding the whole range of ministries across our diocese involves both great challenge and exciting potential,” Monsignor McGuinness said.

“This is not about making up for the diminishing numbers of priests. It is a response to the baptismal calling of each one of us.

“It is about encouraging every one of us to reflect upon what we can give in service to our church community.

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“The changes which I am making are the beginning of a process to deal with the reality of the present and the challenge of the future.”

Monsignor McGuinness also wants to look at ways of reducing the workload and stress on priests as well as allow for holiday cover and the possibility of illness.

He also wants to investigate ways of ‘enabling’ community participation, and provide a basis for lay people to play their full part in ministry, including the leading of some liturgies.

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