Bishop Leo O‘Reilly of the Kilmore Diocese will explore the possibility of having married men as priests and women as deacons to combat the ageing and declining number of vocations.
The new Diocesan Pastoral Plan 2015-2020 was launched at a special concelebrated Mass in St. Ninnidh’s Church, Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh, on Sunday June 7.
Bishop Leo O’Reilly stated, “We can’t keep doing things the way they used to be done”, reechoing the view of Pope Francis. “The Plan”, he said, “is an attempt to rethink goals, structures and style of our mission in Kilmore”.
He commended the plan to each parish community and asked that everyone read and reflect on it, and that it should be a regular item on Parish Pastoral Council agendas.
Fr Enda Murphy, Diocesan Director commented, “Each of us, clergy and laity alike, are living through an intense and important time for the life of the Church.
“The tectonic plates of faith and culture have shifted and the ground which once appeared so solid under our feet has been shaken”.
He reminded the congregation that 52 of the 77 priests in the Kilmore Diocese are over the age of 60, and of the remaining 25, 4 are under 40, 10 are under 50, and 25 are under 60.
According to the pastoral plan, Bishop O’Reilly will liaise with the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference to explore the establishment of a commission akin to the one in Brazil under the leadership of Bishop Erwin Kräutler and Cardinal Claudio Hummes to study the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood as well as appointing women deacons.
The plan reports, “This is a direct response to Pope Francis’s words to Bishop Kräutler that ‘the bishops, the regional bishops’ conferences, should make brave, courageous suggestions.”
The diocese has also invited two Nigerian priests to serve in local parishes, they are expected to arrive in Autumn in time for the clerical changes.
The radical five year plan also aims to train lay people to lead services in the absence of an ordained minister.
Parish structures will also be configured so that they “are fit for purpose in the new reality that faces us.”
The plan also hopes to have more opportunities available for young Catholics to participate in pilgrimages from 2016.
The pastoral plan was constructed following a 10 month listening process conducted around the diocese.
The Diocese of Kilmore, includes all of North Leitrim, Ballinamore and Carrigallen as well as Co Cavan, parts of Fermanagh, Meath and Sligo.
The bishop is expected to meet with local parish councils over the next few months.