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22/10/2021

‘Demands on ageing priests’ prompt end of weekend Mass at two Longford churches

‘Demands on ageing priests’ prompt end of weekend Mass at two Longford churches

St Mel's Cathedral, Longford: ‘Demands on ageing priests’ prompt end of weekend Mass at two Longford churches

The ‘greater demands on an ageing group of priests’ combined with ‘a dwindling worshipping community’ have prompted the priests of Templemichael and Ballymacormack to announce that they will no longer be able to provide a weekend Mass in St Michael's Church, Shroid; St Anne's Church, Curry or St Joseph's Care Centre, Dublin Road, Longford town. 

The priests - Fr James MacKiernan, Fr Tony Gilhooly, Fr Michael McGrath and Fr Joseph Ukut, however, stressed that ‘there is no intention to close St Michael's or St Anne's completely at this time’. And they say they will be able to provide Baptisms for couples from the local area, weddings and funerals and ‘the possibility of a weekday Mass in St Anne's on a Thursday evening at 7.30pm’. 

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They outlined the background and reasons for the move in a letter to parishioners at the weekend. 

Acknowledging that this was ‘a very difficult announcement’, the priests stated, “Regrettably we are unable to continue the same level of service when the demands on priests are multiplying, the age profile of the local clergy is increasing and the possibility of additional priests coming to serve in the Parish is remote.”

The full text of the letter, signed by Fr James MacKiernan, Fr Tony Gilhooly, Fr Michael McGrath and Fr Joseph Ukut, reads;  

“The church is in a period of transition for the past 15 - 20 years and that transition has been hastened in more recent times and especially since March 2020 with the onset of Covid-19. Prior to that, the Parish team and the Parish Pastoral Council had begun to reflect on the services that were being offered. 

Over the past ten years there has been a significant and steady decline in the numbers worshipping in all three churches in the parish and the belief is that we must reappraise the level of service being provided for a dwindling worshipping community. 

The number of priests serving in the Parish has declined from 5 to 4 in recent months and is expected to reduce further in the very near future. In addition to this we have been asked to take on additional responsibilities in Annaduff Parish. In neighbouring parishes, priests have reached retirement age and two more will do so in the next two years. As there are no additional priests available to fill the imminent vacancies in those Parishes, the understanding is that our Parish, together with other neighbouring parishes will have to assume responsibility for those parishes which will place greater demands on an ageing group of priests. 

As we seriously assess the needs of the Parish, and taking into account the availability of priests, we have decided to focus our celebration of Mass at the weekends in the Cathedral only. We feel that with a larger building, easy accessibility, adequate parking and a reasonable sized congregation, there would be a greater sense of celebration and community by celebrating Mass in the one central Church. 

For those reasons we feel that we will no longer be able to provide a weekend Mass in St Michael's Shroid, St Anne's Curry or St Joseph's Care Centre, Dublin Road. There is certainly no intention to close St Michael's or St Anne's completely at this time and we would like to be able to offer some services. We will be able to provide Baptisms for couples from the local area, weddings and funerals and the possibility of a weekday Mass in St Anne's on a Thursday evening at 7.30pm. 

This is a very difficult announcement for the people of the Parish who have built, maintained and served the local Church areas for so many years. Regrettably we are unable to continue the same level of service when the demands on priests are multiplying, the age profile of the local clergy is increasing and the possibility of additional priests coming to serve in the Parish is remote. 

We hope you understand the rationale for this difficult decision. We trust you will understand the present reality and in turn come to accept the decision as inevitable.”

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