Boho, Co. Fermanagh: Oct 23: Sunday Mass was not delivered in an Irish village for the first time in 1,500 years due to the shortage of Catholic priests.
The Church of the Sacred Heart, in Boho, Co. Fermanagh, stands on the site of an early Christian monastery dating back to the sixth century.
But two weeks ago the service was cancelled, as the local Diocese have been forced to alternate Mass between the church in Boho and another in Monea, a neighbouring rural village, every week.
Parishioners were not consulted on the changes and many fear if will threaten people’s local identity. One man in his 90s, who has walked to church every Sunday in Boho, will now have to find a lift in order to go to Mass at another church.
The situation is expected to get worse, local clergymen revealed, as the number of priests being ordained is failing to grow.
Monsignor McGuiness, who holds a senior post in the Catholic Church, said that the situation had become critical and the church had to deal with the reality that the number of priests will reduce still further.
He said: “It’s understandable that some people will find this very difficult and there will in some cases be almost a great sense of loss to people that the kinds of celebrations that there were in their churches previously may no longer be possible.
“Given the fewer number of priests, the convenient Mass may not necessarily be in their own parish, it may be within a church elsewhere in the area.
“However, we have to look again at the opportunities that this presents to us to do things in a different way, but in a way that keeps our churches alive as places of praise and worship.”
Father Brian D’Arcy, a priest from Northern Ireland, believes that reducing Masses is only going to result in closing churches permanently, adding: “Eventually it will come to closing churches if we keep on doing the same thing.
“We have to understand that perhaps this was the problem they had in the acts of the Apostles in the old days and what did they do? They let each community choose their own priests.
“The idea of compulsory celibacy, that a priest is living on his own, is dwindling and not meaningful to many people anymore.
“It seems the laity are only involved in the tail end of it, they are not involved in the decision making, and until that happens, we won’t even begin to understand the problem.”