Morning Mass in Cockhill
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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.