Bishop warns church closures possible in Waterford

Bishop Warns Church Closures Possible In Waterford
Bishop of Lismore and Waterford Alphonsus Cullinan said it is up to the public to keep churches in the diocese open.
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Sarah Slater

The Bishop of Lismore and Waterford Alphonsus Cullinan has warned that church closures are a possibility due to fewer and ageing priests, but added it is up to the public to keep them open.

He said it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the current level of service in parishes within the Dungarvan area, which includes 13 churches in the town, Abbeysdie, An Rinn, Stradbally, Kilrossanty, Kilgobnet, Ballinroad and Garranbane.


In a letter to thousands of parishioners, Bishop Cullinan said “things are changing at a pace”.

“Irish society is very different now than even 10 years ago. While we must try to maintain parish identity, we know that there is a lot more mobility of people nowadays and that parish structures and schedules need consideration.”

The Bishop highlighted there are some parishes without a priest, but speaking on WLRFM’s Déise Today, the Bishop added that it was up to the public to keep churches open.

“I can say absolutely categorically that the bishop will not be closing any church. It’s a question of the local people keeping it open.”


In recent months, the Bishop has visited priests in each of the dioceses' pastoral areas, to discuss “how best to use resources both human and material, especially with regard to providing the sacraments”.

“With the decline in the number of priests and the priest's age and state of health, the current Mass schedule cannot be sustained,” Bishop Cullinan said.

He added that he is “very conscious that the people of the parishes must be very much part of any discussion about change and how to grapple with this situation”.


Among the suggestions made were alternating Mass venues, for example on a six-month basis, and rotating churches each weekend.


Other ideas include having a hub church, and satellite churches having no weekly Mass but instead being used only for special occasions, such as baptisms, and changing Mass times so they do not clash.

“Your involvement is essential, but decisions have to be made. We cannot avoid change.  By June 1st, I hope that you will have reached some proposals and decisions,” Bishop Cullinan added.

Writing to his parishioners, Fr Ned Hassett said the parish's pastoral council believe the Bishop’s “focus was a bit narrow”, adding they felt it was “concentrating on the scarcity of priests and the fallout from this”.

“The council recommended that we broaden the scope of the consultation and see the crisis as an opportunity to encourage and promote greater lay participation in ministry and leadership in parishes.


“He suggests that parishes could be managed by lay people, pastoral workers could be engaged to lead ministry groups, lay-led liturgies of the world could be introduced – all such initiatives would support a more collaborative style of ministry with priests and people working together.”

Parishioners are asked for their responses and recommendations to be made by Friday, February 23rd, and a public meeting is to be held on Wednesday, February 28th at 7pm in Abbeyside Church to discuss responses and attempt to reach a consensus.

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