Bishops across Ireland have urged parishioners and clergy to draw young people to religious life in a hope of curbing ongoing priestly decline.
In a series of homilies for the annual Chrism Mass, prelates warned that the shortage of priests in the country will soon lead to “significant change” in dioceses and called for a renewed commitment to holy orders.
Speaking in Belfast’s St Peter’s Cathedral today, Down and Connor’s Bishop Noel Treanor stressed the urgent need for more priests in the diocese, noting that within five to ten years one priest will have charge of a group of parishes, the faithful and the churches within those parishes.
“Evidently, we shall see significant change in the coming decade. For example, funeral services and burials will be led by women and men, by fellow parishioners, with monthly Requiem Mass for those who have died during the previous weeks as is the case already in other countries,” he said.
Echoing these comments, Armagh’s Archbishop Eamon Martin said that in an Ireland where priesthood and religious life numbers are “dwindling”, presenting such vocations as “fulfilling” is a challenge to all Catholics. He added that young people will not be drawn to religious life unless they see the impact it has on members of the Faith community.
“No young person will want to consider a vocation to priesthood or to the religious life or, indeed, to marriage unless they see priests or sisters or married couples who are living happy lives in the Lord – in love with the heart of Jesus,” the Primate of All-Ireland said.
Elphin’s Bishop Kevin Doran also expressed concern about the decline of priests, and called on families to encourage and pray for young people to consider religious life.
“…We do have to ask ourselves seriously what we are doing in our parishes and in our families to encourage young people, in the first place to be disciples, but then to respond generously to the call to priesthood and religious life, even if that involves making sacrifices.”