10 Jul 2014

Bishop Leahy says changes in priests’ services inevitable due to retirements and drop in vocations

Clerical changes for diocese announced
Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has stated that the level of services provided by priests in the Diocese will change in the years ahead due to the significant decline in priest vocations over recent decades.
Speaking as he revealed this year’s clerical changes across the diocese, Bishop Leahy said that this year’s single ordination against the backdrop of six retirements in the diocese is an indication of the challenge that lies ahead for ministry here.
“This year we will have one ordination to the priesthood in the diocese. David Casey will be ordained on July 19th in the Cathedral. That is great news and we can rejoice in it.  However, it will probably be another five or six years before we have another ordination. Thankfully, lately a number of men have indicated an interest in going for the priesthood. I hope we will see an increase in the number entering the seminary in coming years.
“That said, while we can't yet talk of a massive crisis, as relatively we still have a reasonable number of priests in Limerick diocese, we do need to recognise that the services we have provided until now will change.  The ageing profile of priests will mean we will have to shape differently the way we provide ministry in the diocese. It is important for priests to work more in teams, supporting one another and also working together possibly serving a number of parishes.
“Some of the city parishes are very large and I am concerned that we have only one priest in some of them. There are parishes where previously there were two or three priests but now there is only one. But the demands, if anything, are increasing.
“While there is a change in the clerical profile of the diocese, I am very encouraged by the strong presence of lay volunteers in many aspects of parish life in the diocese.  Literally thousands of lay people give of their time, ideas and service in parish school boards of management, financial and pastoral councils, child safeguarding procedures, altar service, baptismal teams, ministries of the Word and of the Eucharist, church upkeep and cleaning, sacristy service, prayer and study groups, hospitality, Vincent de Paul Society, parish visitation, events organisation.
“We can never be grateful enough for this generous commitment to the organisational life of the Church that contributes much to social cohesion in parishes and local communities.”
Bishop Leahy said that he had engaged Fr. Eamonn Fitzgibbon, Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Planning, over recent months to work on his behalf with priests and pastoral area teams to reflect on the changing profile of the diocesan clergy.  
“There have been many listening sessions.  This work will have to continue right throughout the diocese more and more. I specifically met with priests on several occasions in recent months to reflect together on challenges and opportunities that are opening up for us in the new context of our numbers and age.
“It is against this background that I made the changes this year. I appreciate some people will be upset to see their priest moving on but the change, if lived well, can be fruitful for the priest and for the parish. It's a chance to begin again to look at our mission, the way we are promoting the Gospel, how lay people are involved in co-responsibility in the local faith community,” he said.
Bishop Leahy said he was most grateful to priests for their willingness to co-operate in the changes this year. “I know it's never easy. But their willingness is a sign to me of their continued fidelity to follow Jesus, to be missionary disciples,” he continued.
“I am grateful to people for their goodness to priests. It is always moving to hear people speak so fondly of their priests. There is no doubt that the relationship between priests and parishioners is very deep. Priests are present at key moments of people's lives - weddings, baptisms, First Communion and Confirmation, sickness and celebrations, bereavement and funerals. 
“To be a priest is a wonderful vocation and priests are always grateful for the huge support people offer them.”
Bishop Brendan Leahy has made the following Clerical changes, with effect from 14th September, 2014.

Very Rev. Austin McNamara, Administrator, St. John’s Cathedral, to be Parish Priest of Loughill/Ballyhahill Parish to succeed Very Rev. Gerard O’Leary, who is going on sabbatical leave until July, 2015                                                                                                                                                                                 

Very Rev. Noel Kirwan, Parish Priest, St. Michael’s Parish, to be Administrator of St. John’s Cathedral to succeed Very Rev. Austin McNamara.

Rev. Leo McDonnell, Curate, St. John’s Cathedral, to be Parish Priest, St. Michael’s Parish to succeed Very Rev. Noel Kirwan while continuing to reside in Cathedral House and remaining as a member of the Parish team of St John’s

Very Rev. Oliver Plunkett, Parish Priest, Donaghmore / Knockea Parish, to be Administrator St. Joseph’s Parish

Very Rev. Thomas Mangan, Administrator, St. Joseph’s Parish, to be Parish Priest, Donaghmore / Knockea Parish

Rev. Frank Downes, O.P., to be Parish Chaplain, St. Joseph’s Parish

Very Rev. Brendan Murphy, Parish Priest, Feenagh / Kilmeedy Parish to retire and reside in Newcastle West Parish and assist the Parish Team

Rev. Patrick Bluett, Curate, Newcastle West Parish to succeed Very Rev. Brendan Murphy as Parish Priest of Feenagh / Kilmeedy Parish

Very Rev. Garry Canon Bluett, Parish Priest, Manister Parish to retire and reside in Croom Parish, continue his ministry in Croom Orthopaedic Hospital and assist in the Pastoral Area

Very Rev. Damian Ryan, Parish Priest, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, to be Parish Priest in Manister Parish to succeed Very Rev. Garry Canon Bluett

Rev. John Walsh, Chaplain to Prison Services, to be Parish Priest of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish to succeed Very Rev. Damian Ryan

Very Rev. Joseph Kennedy, Parish Priest of Croom / Banogue Parishes to retire and reside in Kilmallock and assist in the Pastoral Area

Very Rev. William Canon Fitzmaurice, Parish Priest, Kilmallock / Ballingaddy Parish to be Parish Priest of Croom / Banogue parishes to succeed Very Rev. Joseph Kennedy

Very Rev. Joseph Shire, to succeed Very Rev. Canon William Fitzmaurice as Parish Priest of Kilmallock Parish, while continuing as Parish Priest of Ballyagran/ Colmanswell Parish and acting as Moderator of the Parish Team

Very Rev. Gerard McNamara, to retire as Parish Priest of Bulgaden / Martinstown Parish and continue to reside in the Parish

Rev. Joseph Cussen, Curate, Kilmallock / Ballingaddy Parish to be Parish Priest, Bulgaden / Martinstown Parish to succeed Very Rev. Gerard McNamara and continue to reside in Kilmallock and remain as a member of the Kilmallock Parish Team

Rev. Leslie McNamara, recently returned from working with the Columban Missionaries, assigned to assist within the Cathedral Pastoral Area

Rev. Eamon Purcell, Curate St. Patrick’s to be Chaplain in University Hospital Limerick

Rev. Liam Enright, Diocesan Advisor to Primary Schools to go on Study Leave to Rome

Rev. Sean Harmon, Curate, St. John’s Cathedral to succeed Rev. Liam Enright as Diocesan Advisor to Primary Schools

Rev David Casey, Deacon, will be ordained to Priesthood on 19th July.
During the year Bishop Leahy also accepted the retirement of Rev. Patrick Costello and of Rev. Terry O'Connell on grounds of ill health.

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