Archbishop Michael Neary and Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, with the new Archbishop of Tuam, Francis Duffy. Photo: Ray Ryan

New Archbishop speaks of change as vocations decline

THE decline in vocations to the priesthood was addressed by the new Archbishop of Tuam, who spoke of change in the Catholic Church at his installation on Sunday afternoon.

The installation of Archbishop Francis Duffy was celebrated at Tuam Cathedral where he noted how some parishes today are functioning without a resident priest.

He told the congregation, which was limited due to the pandemic: “One topic often raised with me is the decline in vocations. We know that over the decades, in the west of Ireland, many have answered the call to priesthood and religious life for service at home and abroad.

“The number answering that call has plummeted in recent decades. We just have to look around and see parishes where there were two or three priests there is now one and increasingly there are none, with parishes sharing a priest.

“This is not because of any diminishment of what people think of priests and their work. If anything, the value put on priests’ pastoral work, and liturgies, and the appreciation of their presence, is higher than ever.

“Yet, the decline continues. Consequently, there are not enough priests to maintain the present parish arrangements.

“Structures have already been modified to meet the current needs and more changes will be necessary building on good developments that have already taken place and also to accommodate and facilitate very positive new developments that will arise.

“Without a doubt the future of the Catholic Church depends, as always, on the parishioners, as well as the diminishing numbers of clergy and religious. It depends on your faith, your enthusiasm and on how the Holy Spirit moves through you. That is part of the baptism call of every person, not just clergy or religious, but of all the baptised.”

Archbishop Duffy also reflected on conduct by the Church in the past, stating: “Judgement prevailed and set the scene for harshness, not homeliness. Human dignity was not there for the living or the dead or the bereaved.

“In November I stated 'to move forward we must listen to all who have been hurt by their experience of Church'.

“Truth and justice are important and, in pursuit of both, I am willing to listen and to learn.”

And he paid tribute to his predecessor, Archbishop Michael Neary, who led the archdiocese for 27 years: “The more I learn about Tuam and the more I know Archbishop Michael’s work, the more I appreciate the breadth and depth of his shepherding and leadership.

“The recent very positive review of safeguarding in the Archdiocese of Tuam commented 'there is evidence of a robust safeguarding structure and practice in place under the active and compassionate leadership of Archbishop Neary'.

“I congratulate Archbishop Michael on this, and I thank him and those in every parish who are vigilant in safeguarding.”