A prominent clergyman in the West of Ireland has revealed that Irish priests are literally dying off, and that the Catholic faith in Ireland will soon be ministered by a country of old men.
In a recent piece he wrote for Furrow Magazine, Fr Brendan Hoban, who is the parish priest at St Muredach’s Cathedral, in Ballina, Co Mayo, warned that the number of priests in his Killala diocese was set to plummet.
“In 20 years’ time there will be around eight priests instead of the present 34, with probably two or three under 60 years of age,” he wrote.
Not too long ago in Ireland, Irish couples had large numbers of children, and the odds were that among the jobs the kids would grow up to fulfill were banker, civil servant, farmer, nun and priest.
As a result, Ireland had a booming priest population, and had the luxury of being able to send priests around the world to spread the word of God. Those days are well and truly over.
Irish priests are becoming an endangered species, and very few men are joining the seminary in Ireland these days.
There is little interest among Irish men to take a vow of celibacy for the rest of their lives, or be part of an institution that is responsible for some of the most sickening abuse the country has ever seen.
Last year, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin revealed that there was 10 times more priests over the age of 70 that there were under 40 in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Martin also estimated that in a few years there will be only around 200 diocesan priests to minister the almost 200 parishes in the diocese.
The same story is being heard all over the country. In Galway, it was revealed in April that the number of priests in the Archdiocese of Tuam would tank by 30 per cent over the course of the next four years.
The numbers are shocking. In 2007,160 priests either retired or passed away, and only nine new priests were ordained. It is another crisis in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
How can the Church in Ireland even start to rebuild the bridges of faith and trust that have been decimated in recent times if there are no priests to minister the flock? Where does the Catholic Church in Ireland go from here?