Hopes that Clogher diocese can buck the trend of ageing priests

OPTIMISTIC… Monsignor Joseph McGuinness upbeat about future

OPTIMISTIC… Monsignor Joseph McGuinness upbeat about future

THE Catholic diocese of Clogher is experiencing an upsurge in students for the priesthood, despite the ongoing scarcity of clergy everywhere and ageing priests.

This huge, cross-border diocese embraces 37 parishes which are ministered by some 80 clergy where the average age across the county is 64.


They range from younger priests, some recently ordained, to revered older men like retired parish priest, Canon Edward Murphy, the ‘pastor emeritus’ in Galloon who will be celebrating his 95th birthday later this month.

And, while no parishes have been amalgamated – although this could be coming down the line – adjoining parishes operate in ‘clusters’ where clergy help each other out in times of need, and, in some cases, Masses have been reduced.

However, in the face of that daunting scenario, there are ‘green shoots’ sprouting up, with seven men studying for the priesthood. When ordained, they will be ministering in the Clogher diocese.

Right Reverend Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, now 31 years ordained, is the chancellor (the bishop’s law officer) of the diocese, and does parish work as well.

Speaking to the Herald, he said he was not unduly concerned at the situation. “We all know there has been a decline in vocations to the priesthood over the last number of decades. Why? There are probably a number of reasons for it, but it would be to single out one over another.

“What I can say is we’re currently very fortunate in that we have seven men studying and they will be available for the diocese of Clogher. We had one ordination two years ago and another coming up on 5th July.

“So, we are seeing a resurgence in vocations to the priesthood making up for the deficit of the last few years.”


The 5th July ordinand is Deacon Leo Creelman who is as native of St Michael’s/St Mary’s, Enniskillen and Lisbellaw parish. He will be ordained by Bishop Liam MacDaid in St Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan at 3pm that day. And this Sunday, 31st May, Kevin Malcomson, from Aghabog in County Monaghan (Killevan parish) will be ordained a deacon.

The Diaconate, as it is called – not to be confused with Lay Deacons – is the last of the Orders before ordination to the priesthood. Normally, ordination follows a year later. Priests normally offer to resign when they reach 75, but a lot do continue to offer their services to parishes, as long as they are fit and able to do so’.

Like Canon Murphy and others, they are given the title ‘pastor emeritus’ (PE), a ‘well-earned’ status.

They are relieved of the duties of administering a parish which, in itself, has become more onerous in recent years as numbers have declined. However, according to one parish priest, it’s not all doom and gloom.

“The church will be there for all time. New things will happen. There will be new arrangements for the church. They are there at the moment and, yes, there are different green shoots around that people don’t realise.

“There is an enthusiasm that is still there. For example, when the Pope goes to visit, there is a great love for the church. You go to Rome, and you can’t get into it (Vatican Square) with the crowds of people.”

To read more.. Subscribe to current edition

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA