It will be the first time one of the 53 parishes of the ancient diocese of Kerry (called Ardfert until the middle of the 20th century), which includes west and north Cork, will be without a priest.
But it will not be the last time and “will be repeated in every one of the 12 pastoral areas of the diocese over the coming years,” Bishop of Kerry, Dr Bill Murphy told Mass-goers yesterday.
It was with regret that the time had come to withdraw a priest from the Beara Pastoral Area, he said.
“The reason for this decision is the reduction of the number of clergy ministering in the diocese. As most are aware there has been a shortage of vocations in recent years and this is now impacting forcefully throughout the diocese.”
He told Allihies parishioners that although the diocese had been preparing for this day for some time: “I am filled with sadness in the knowledge that this action will leave a parish in our diocese, without a resident priest.”
Each of the three priests in the Beara Pastoral Area — Adrigole, Castletownbere and Eyeries — will have a role in ministering the parish of Allihies.
But he added: “It does provide an opportunity for laity to take their rightful place in leadership roles in our parishes. Due to the commitment of clergy and laity and the preparation that has been under way over the past number of years, I am confident that we will be able to manage this new situation well. ”