Monday, May 06, 2024

A time for our Church to break free from the chains of history (Opinion)

There are times as one gets older when wistful little aspirations creep into the consciousness about faith and the consolation that it seems to provide for those who have it. 

Most people I know who have such a sincerity of faith do seem to be that bit happier and more content with their lot than those of us who slip into the Doubting Thomas category.

The Church, for all its individual and establishment crises back the generations in Ireland, does provide many of us with little rays of hope and especially so when a close connection passes on.

I remember once being at a funeral in England when the coldness and brevity of the service took me somewhat aback. In a way it seemed like a business transaction of sorts – in, out and down.

A couple of weeks back, my editor left me with a Monday morning mission of writing an explanatory piece about changes in the management of the Catholic Church in the western Province of Tuam.

I have to admit to starting off ‘from scratch’ on such an assignment and a little familiarisation cum research had to be undertaken to ‘throw an eye ‘on what is quite a vast (by Irish standards) territorial stretch of ground from the banks of the Shannon to the tip of Belmullet.

The theme of Church changes across Ireland over recent decades is pretty much the same: a decline in vocations; a scarcity of priests; and an average age profile of clergy which is now well into the mid-70s.

A little bit of online research unearthed a few articles about how Ireland – once regarded as the jewel in the Catholic crown as regards vocations – has now slipped into the relegation zone with fewer and fewer young men stepping forward for a career of the cloth.

The reality ‘on the ground’ for priests in Ireland now is that they have to serve maybe two to three parishes and not like the old days, they just cannot be available at every beck and call for many of the duties that we took for granted in the past.

According to the Catholic Herald magazine, over the past three years 25% of priests in Ireland have died, not surprising given the age demographics of the Irish clergy while it also pointed out that since 1970, there has been a 70% drop in vocations across the country.