One priest serving several parishes could be new norm

PARISH priests ministering across multiple parishes could become the norm here in Fermanagh, with parishioners warned more clerical changes could be coming down the line.

Speaking to the Herald after announcing a swathe of changes across the diocese last week, Mgr Joseph McGuinness said, parishioners had been generally understanding about the need for change.

“There is certainly a sadness, naturally enough, in those parishes where the priest is moving,” he added. “It’s a testament to the loyalty and affection people have for their local priest. That’s perfectly understandable.


“People generally have been quite generous in their response to this and understanding that we have to meet the challenge there for us.”

Mgr McGuinness once again explained the need to make the changes, with the diocese loosing a large number of priests to death, retirement and other reasons in recent years.

He said this had “created stresses in certain areas of the diocese that needed to be addressed.”

“This is really the beginning of addressing an issue that’s going to be with us for years and years to come,” he said, adding further changes may need to be made in future.

“We don’t know what the future holds, from the point of view of priests whose services we might lose,” Mgr McGuinness continued. “However, I think one of the very positive things about this is it has encouraged us to look at the whole way in which ministry is structured and delivered within the diocese and, in particular, the vital role lay people have to play in that.”

Mgr McGuinness, who last week confirmed the number of Masses in the diocese would need to be cut to accommodate the new reality, said it would happen in future that one parish priest would be responsible for multiple parishes. Much like Fr Jimmy McPhillips who, from next month, will take over as PP in Lisnaskea and Maguiresbridge, but will be administrator for Newtownbutler and Donagh also.

“The kinds of structures and organisation we had in the past, which worked extremely well when we had loads of priests, won’t work now,” he said.


“I put a great deal of emphasis on planning not from a parish point of view, but from an area point of view within the diocese.

“What people will begin to see is, they will begin to see in their own parishes, ministering in their own parish, saying Mass for example, priests from outside their parish, from the neighbouring parish or beyond. Priests will operate in areas and support each other in that way.”


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