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Morning Mass in Cockhill cancelled permanently 02.09.08

"It’s going to get worse" - Fr Walsh

A BUNCRANA priest has predicted there might be only two or three priests to minister to the entire Catholic population of the Inishowen peninsula in years to come.
Fr John Walsh was commenting after he was forced to permanently cancel the 9am daily Mass in Cockhill and cancel all Station Masses in the Buncrana area this October. The move follows the latest round of transfers within the Derry Diocese that has brought into sharp focus the decline in vocations and the advancing years of existing priests.
The transfers include Fr Con McLaughlin moving from Buncrana to become parish priest of Carndonagh.
Fr Walsh and Fr George Doherty of Desertegney are currently ministering on their own in the parish due to an illness that will see Fr Eddie McGuinness out on sick leave for the next six weeks.
Fr Walsh is also covering two-week holiday leave for the parish priest of Clonmany and admits being "very overstretched".
"We're facing facts," he explained. "Fr McLaughlin has gone to Carn and he wasn't replaced and Fr McGuinness is out on sick leave and won't be back for approximately six weeks." He said he was just "being realistic" about the changes he's had to make to the daily schedule that also include new times for Confession in the Oratory and Baptism in Cockhill.
Fr Walsh "There are very few priests to go around and the effects of the shortage will be much more apparent a year or two from now.
"In 20 years’ time, we can envisage a scenario where there will only be two or three priests for the entire peninsula."
Fr Walsh said he could be forced to make even more changes to the schedule in the foreseeable future, not least because, under Canon Law, priests are strictly only allowed to say two Masses per day.
"When Fr McGuinness comes back, we will have to sit down and decide what we can offer
in terms of the current daily schedule going forward.”
The Buncrana parish priest outlined the statistics showing an average of 70 funerals and 60 weddings a year in the parish of Buncrana which has a population of around 9,000 including Cockhill, Desertegney, Drumfries and the Illies.
There are 123 priests in the Derry Diocese, ten of whom are over 80 years and ten of whom are under 40 years with the average age 58 - 60 years.
Fr Walsh said priests would be relying more and more on lay people for help with some duties within the parish.
"I'm a realistic person - you just have to get on with it and offer as good a service as you can while recognising that there has to be limitations." For the people of Cockhill and surrounding areas, 7.30pm Mass will continue nightly while many are opting for 10am Mass in the town.
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