Bryan Coll reports for Time:
Wanted: Clean-living young people for a long career (women need not apply). Responsibilities: Varied. Spiritual guidance, visiting the sick, public relations, marriages (own marriage not permitted). Hours: On call at all times. Salary: None, bar basic monthly stipend.
He hasn’t placed classified ads in the Irish press just yet, but according to Father Patrick Rushe, coordinator of vocations with the Catholic Church in Ireland, “We’ve done just about everything” else to attract young men to the priesthood. And yet the call of service in one of Europe’s most religious countries is falling on more deaf ears than ever.
Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, made a grim prediction about the future of the church in Ireland: If more young priests aren’t found quickly, the country’s parishes may soon not have enough clergy to survive. He told the congregation at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin that his diocese had 46 priests ages 80 or older but only two under 35. It’s a similar story all over the island. According to a 2007 study of Catholic dioceses in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, about half of all priests are between the ages of 55 and 74.
Ireland’s ties to the Catholic Church run deep. The ordination of a family member was once regarded as a moment of great prestige, especially in rural areas. Even as recently as 1990, over 80% of Irish people said they attended Mass at least once a week. But the country’s relationship with the church began to change dramatically in the mid-1990s, when Ireland’s economy began to take off, ushering in years of unprecedented growth…
[continues in Time]