Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy
THE Bishop of Limerick has confirmed that no Mass will take place for a day in the Diocese next week.
On Tuesday – with priests attending an “important in-service formation gathering” – services will be led by lay members, but Mass or Communion will not take place.
It is believed to be the first time a Catholic diocese in Ireland will be without Mass for an entire day.
Bishop Brendan Leahy confirmed that there would be lay-led public prayers in Churches across the diocese on Tuesday morning.
Limerick’s top cleric said that the move had come on foot of an initiative floated at last year’s Synod, which called for greater involvement from the laity in the operations of the Church.
He did acknowledge that it was “inevitable with the fall off in vocations that we need to explore new and exciting opportunities to celebrate the Word and one of the ways will be through lay-led times of public prayer.
“Our Diocesan Synod last year strongly encouraged this. As we move forward, we need to prepare for a time when, even though priests are not available, each local community will be prepared to arrange for moments of public prayer for various occasions.
“No parish should find itself in a position where it is not prepared for such a possibility so it makes sense for us to begin right now.”
Bishop Leahy said that communion will not be distributed on Tuesday next, though he stressed that this is not to suggest that it might never be at future lay-led liturgies.
The Bishop had recently hailed preliminary results of Census 2016, which showed that 78% of Irish people consider themselves Catholic, which he called a “striking” figure.
Dr Leahy said that while he was encouraged by the preliminary results of the 2016 Census, he urged that the Church needs to admit the wounds it has caused by those within to so many.
According to those figures, Limerick has a Catholic population of 184,340 in 60 parishes with 94 churches, with 83 active priests, made up of 45 parish priests and 38 curates.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Limerick Leader last year, Bishop Leahy said that, with regard to the shortage of priests in the Diocese: "I think we are coping well in the sense that we are looking at the issue. We are not trying to pretend it isn’t there.
"We are acknowledging the issue and being proactive. One of the things we are doing here is we have moved more clearly towards a team ministry model, that is three or four priests looking after several parishes together. There will be teething problems because it’s new and we have to think it through but we have to move in that direction.
"In moving in that direction we are going to see teams of priests but not just teams of priests, I think we will see lay people working within the teams so that is going to be a development."