The evolving clerical landscape, including the emergence of ‘teams of priests’, in response to the fall-off in vocations has been evidenced in the 2016 clerical changes announced today by Bishop Brendan Leahy, Bishop of Limerick. The changes show the increased movement towards ‘teams of priests’ operating across a number of parishes, a shift very much signalled at the 2016 Limerick Diocesan Synod held in April.
In addition to the clerical changes announced (full list below), Bishop Leahy has also appointed Canon Tony Mullins as Vicar General and Canon Donough O’Malley, who has retired as Parish Priest of St. Mary’s, as Chancellor of the Diocese. This will see him take over some of the canonical duties of Father Paul Finnerty, who has taken up the post of Vice Rector of the Irish College in Rome.
Announcing the changes, Bishop Leahy said that while the move towards ‘teams of priests’ is inevitable, there will be no change for parish structures or identity. “We have been saying for a number of years that we have to adapt for the fall-off in vocations and so far the changes we have implemented have managed this new landscape very well. We have teams of priests working across different parishes and while this means we won’t necessarily have a priest living in every parish, there will be a PP for every parish.
“This enables us to retain the identity of a parish. The parish still has the service of a priest, its parish council, finance committee, etc. But its Parish Priest could also be Parish Priest for a neighbouring parish.”
The new landscape, he said, will be accompanied by greater lay involvement and that this was very much prescribed at the Diocesan Synod in April. “One of the key reasons for holding our Synod was to look at how we can deliver the pastoral care going forward that the people of our diocese need and want as well as dealing with the reality of having less priests.
“The 400 Synod delegates very much instructed us that the way forward in terms of leadership in the diocese would be a combination of priests and laity. The need for greater lay involvement was very much declared by delegates and welcomed by the diocese and the fall-off in vocations means that this will not only be desirable but inevitable.
“One proposal, which was strongly supported, at the Synod even suggested we would establish a Team Ministry Structure in each Pastoral Area, while delegates also believed that more supports should be given to foster and encourage more lay people, either individually or in pastoral councils, to come forward and get involved in leadership roles.”
See the list of clerical changes below:
- Canon Tony Mullins to be Vicar General in succession to Msgr. Dan Neenan who has retired from that position.
- Canon Tony Mullins to be Parish Priest of the parishes of Abbeyfeale and Athea and ministering in the Pastoral Area of Íde Naofa.
- Canon Donough O’Malley to be Chancellor of the Diocese.
- Canon Donough O’Malley to retire as Parish Priest of St. Mary’s and to be appointed to assist the team of priests serving the parishes of Saint Joseph’s, Saint Saviour’s and Our Lady of Lourdes, along with his duties as Chancellor.
- Canon John O’Shea to be Parish Priest of Raheen parish and ministering in the Pastoral Area of Pobal Neasáin
- Father Tom Coughlan to retire as Parish Priest of Effin/Garrienderk parish and to be appointed to assist the team of priests serving the parishes of Kilmallock, Effin/Garrienderk, Bulgaden and Martinstown.
- Father Paddy Bowen to retire as Parish Priest of Athea and to be appointed to minister in the Cathedral Pastoral Area.
- Father Michael Noonan to be Parish Priest of Ardagh and Carrickerry and linked to the team of priests serving the parishes in Our Lady’s Pastoral Area (Newcastle West).
- Father Tim Curtin to continue as Parish Priest of Coolcappa/Kilcolman and ministering in the Pastoral Area of Tobar Phádraigh/Knockpatrick.
- Father Willie Walsh to be Parish Priest of the Parishes of Rockhill/Bruree and Ballyagran/Colmanswell and linked to the team of priests serving in the Pobal Mocheallóig Pastoral Area (Kilmallock).
- Father Des McAuliffe to be Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish and ministering in the Thomond Pastoral.
- Father Derek Leonard to be PP of Saint Mary’s Parish (along with his current duties as Parish Priest of Saint Nicholas’) and member of the team of priests serving the parishes of Saint Mary’s and Saint Nicholas.
- Father Seán Harmon to be member of the team of priests serving the parishes of Saint Mary’s and Saint Nicholas.
- Father Michael Hanley to be member of the team of priests serving the parishes of Saint Mary’s and Saint Nicholas.
- Father Damian Ryan to be Parish Priest of Fedamore (along with his current duties as Parish Priest of Manister).
- Father Liam Enright to be Parish Priest of Rathkeale and ministering in the Pastoral Area of Curraghchase/Naomh Mhuire.
- Father Michael O’Shea to be Parish Priest of the parishes of Kilfinane, Glenroe/Ballyorgan and Ardpatrick.
- Father John McCarthy to be Parish Priest of Dromin/Athlacca and ministering in the Maigue Pastoral Area.
- Father Richard Keane to be temporary Administrator of Saint Saviour’s.