Parishioners attending a picturesque Cork church have less than two weeks left to stop it becoming the first in the city to be forced to close due to a lack of vocations.
St Vincent’s Church, which opened in Sunday’s Well in 1856 and which is owned by the Vincentian order, is due to close its doors on June 30.
The small congregation is desperately hoping that a new priest can be found at the last minute who will be able to continue to say Mass at the church.
A petition with 120 names has been sent to the Order of the Vincentians, as well as to the Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley, asking that St Vincent’s be kept open.
In the petition, the campaigners say: “We appreciate that there are manpower issues both within the Vincentian community and the diocese. We do not believe, however, that the recent announcement is the correct solution to this situation we find ourselves in and we would request an opportunity to work with you in seeking an alternative.”
The campaigners have also sent a letter to the Papal Nuncio. According to a spokeswoman for the Friends of St Vincent’s, as well as being a place where the parishioners go to Mass, the church is a tourist attraction for the public and a hub in the local community.
“The weekday Masses and weekly coffee morning provide an opportunity for all age groups in the area to come together, helping some who may otherwise not have anyone to talk to for the day to feel less isolated,” she said. “Many community activities are centred at the church — walking group, choir, retired men’s computer group, AA, Guides.”
She said that while some parishioners could go to the Sacred Heart Church for Mass, a number of elderly members of the parish with no access to a car would not have that option.
“The Pope is encouraging people to come back to the Church — we have never left,” she said.
“We are willing but wish to stay together as a group. It’s hard for those who don’t know the parish to understand our bond, but anyone who comes here can feel it.”
Fr Tom Deenihan of the Cork and Ross diocese said St Vincent’s is not a diocesan church and the Vincentians had always provided a priest but do not have any available now. He added that the diocese does not have a “great surplus” either. Fr Deenihan said the community affected is very small and is hemmed by other parishes.
“Much as we would like to provide a priest for every community, we cannot,” he said, pointing out that, for example, Ballincollig has two priests for thousands of parishioners.
“This is the first time in Cork City that a church has been faced with the reality of the decline in vocations. This is going to become a more common story.”
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