A recent survey by the Association for Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland painted a harrowing picture about the demographics of Ireland’s clergy.
They found about a quarter of priests in the country will reach or surpass the retirement age of 75 within the next 15 years and few new priests are coming to replace them – just 47 seminarians are studying at Saint Patrick’s Pontifical University in Maynooth.
Of Ireland’s working priests, 300 or 15% of them are above the age of 75 and working past retirement. 547 or 26% of them are aged 61 to 75, meaning they will reach retirement age within the next 15 years.
Priests near retirement are also overworked. 847 or 41% of them tend to 1,355 parishes and 2,652 churches, with many serving in multiple churches per week.
ACP spokesman Father Tim Hazelwood said:
“We know it is going to happen. If these priests are no longer working, who will do the work?”
He explained that some dioceses have failed to acknowledge the stark reality of the situation, with only 1 in 40 priests being below the age of 40.
“In those dioceses it is about filling gaps and getting older men to look after more masses and placing bigger expectations on them.”
The Franciscans in Ireland also announced they will leave their friary after 800 years.
Minister Provincial Father Aidan McGrath said:
“Like so many religious bodies, we must make these difficult decisions as we deal with and respond to our ageing and reducing membership.”
Pray for Ireland’s clergy!