Raphoe Diocesan Parish Survey
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
From Monday 13th February to Sunday 5th March last, a survey was carried out by each parish in the Diocese of Raphoe to gain insight into the current reality of practice in each parish. This was achieved by analysing figures such as Mass attendance, the number of Masses per parish, the busyness of life in each parish etc. This gave us a very good overall picture in the Diocese of Raphoe at present.
Numbers Attending Mass
The figures (available for every parish at Raphoe.ie) are much lower than they were in the past. We do not have an accurate percentage of the Catholic population in each parish. However, when we view the figures we recognise that congregations are for the most part very small. It will be important for each area to ascertain what its real needs are going forward and how the Worship of God can be organised in the best way possible.
64.7% of those attending Mass are over 40 years of age.
35.3% of Mass attendees are under 40 years of age.
Priests at capacity
At present, the Diocese of Raphoe has 33 parishes and 71 Churches which are served by 48 active priests (this does not include retired priests).
There are currently 122 weekend Masses throughout the Diocese and 236 weekday Masses (incl. Sat morn). This works out on average of 2.5 Weekend Masses per priest and 5 weekday Masses per priest. This does not include funerals, weddings or other services.
Age Profile of Priests
The age profile of these active priests are as follows:
1) 3 in their 80’s 4) 14 in their 50’s
2) 8 in their 70’s 5) 10 in their 40’s
3) 10 in their 60’s 6) 3 in their 30’s
This current age profile tells us that a further shortage is coming and changes are coming sooner for some parishes.
We have 4 men in formation for priesthood at present. Although we are blessed to have people in formation, it is still not enough to cover a shortage down the line.
In 5 years time, the best case scenario without any sudden departures, is that there will be 11 less active priests which will be countered by only 1 ordination. So that will leave 38 active priests to cover 33 parishes and 71 Churches.
In 10 years time, should the current trend continue, there will be more parishes than priests. Again, the best case scenario is that we will have 35 to 40 priests to serve our 33 parishes and 71 Churches.
When we factor in financial implications such as the cost of maintaining property, increase in cost of fuel for heating etc, this also adds a strain to parishes that may be struggling.
We are only giving a very limited account of the findings here. For greater detail, please visit the Raphoe Diocesan website at www.raphoediocese.ie
As we can see from these statistics changes are afoot. Each priest is already celebrating 2.5 Masses on average per weekend and this does not include funerals. Factor in weddings, baptisms, sick calls, etc on top of this, and the workload increases substantially.
From the Bishop
When I look at the statistics that we are considering here, my desire is that our planning for the future is not simply a matter of managing decline. Every time we gather at Mass we celebrate the presence of the Risen Lord among us, the One who has come to save the whole world. We want to do that in the most beautiful way possible. We will not be able to do it well if a small number of priests are overburdened with leading services for ever smaller numbers of people.
Our diocese is divided into six ‘Deanery’ areas. I am asking the priests in each deanery to dig more deeply into the findings as they relate to their local area. A conversation among the priests would be a first step leading to a consultation involving the community. Our challenge is to make some decisions now that will stand us in good stead, 10 years and 20 years from now.
Change is certainly coming. I invite everyone to hear the Lord say; ‘Do not be afraid for I am with you.’ If we let ourselves be guided by the Lord we will find ways of allowing Him to be present in our communities more powerfully than ever.
+ Alan McGuckian, SJ
Click on the links to access the information for your particular area.