Soon there will not be enough priests to say funeral masses…

Bishop Donal McKeown has alerted parishioners that the massive decline in priest numbers has started affecting services and will only worsen. From the BelTel:

In Down and Connor, 84 priests manage 86 parishes and 146 churches. But, according to Bishop McKeown, the number of clergymen will drop to just 24 within the next two decades.

The Bishop said it is no longer fair to ask priests to keep on “workloads and demands that are unreasonable and not sustainable” as he called on church members to take on more responsibility.

“Within 15 years, and for the first time in the diocese’s history, will have more retired priests than priests in active ministry,” the letter adds.

Around 3,000 funerals and 800 marriages are celebrated in the diocese each year, usually in a special Mass.

The cleric said meeting “unsustainable expectations” is no longer possible.

The clergyman warned that with only seven priests in the diocese aged under 40, the number of priests in active ministry will drop by almost 50% in just over ten years.

Father Gary Donegan, who recently returned as an administrator to Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne and rarely takes time off, said there can be angry reactions from non-regular churchgoers when told a priest is unavailable to take funerals.

He recalled covering an incident in west Belfast last week where no priest was available for Requiem Mass.

“They’re shocked by that and, in some cases, angered by it. Some people get quite in your face about it.”

A few years ago, a family friend died. I wrote a lovely eulogy for him. Unfortunately, no one heard it due to the heavily accented Indian priest who did the service. My wife is a professional speaker and would have done a far better job of delivering the eulogy but ‘only priests can do it’. He was a Celtic fan, so I wanted ‘You’ll never walk alone’ sung; it was a no to that, too, Catholic Hymns only. I get the reason behind these rules, but I could not help thinking funeral services can be very impersonal and generic.

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