The need to cover for neighbouring parishes means “no priest is full-time in his own parish” in these areas, and the laity are responsible for more work, the Bishop indicated.
While five priests have died in the past nine months, at least three priests are coping with long term illness, Dr Browne said.
Three priests who retired last year were above the age of 75 and one elderly priest has retired this year.
Now just one priest in the diocese, which includes parts of west and north Cork, is under the age of 40.
For only the first time in 10 years, Kerry hopes to see an ordination next year and four people are studying for the priesthood.
“I have tried to keep the number of new appointments to a minimum this year, mindful there were a large number last year. Each movement has a significant effect on priests and people throughout the whole local pastoral area,” the bishop said.
The parishes without priests are being served by priests in their pastoral areas, equivalent to the 12 old deaneries.
Already, Valentia Island in the south west; Allihies in west Cork, and Tarbert in the north are without resident priests. These are joined now by Ballyheigue and Duagh.
“I realise that this in particular will cause upset and be unsettling for both priests and people. The total number of parishes without a resident priest is now five. If in a pastoral area there are four parishes and just three priests, then no priest is full-time in his own parish,” Dr Browne added.
A quarter of each priest’s time is dedicated to the fourth parish that is without a resident priest. More and more responsibility rests with the laity, he said.
“Overall it is clear that more responsibility for life in the parish is in the hands of the laity. It is the same spirit of service to the parish that we see in all areas of local community life: the GAA, amateur drama, Kerry Parents and Friends, bridge clubs, etc. Thank God so many people find it life–giving to give freely of their time to activities in their community,” Dr Browne added.
The changes of appointment of clergy in the Diocese of Kerry this month include:
Retirement: Fr Bill Radley PP Glenflesk.
Appointments: Mgr Sean Hanafin PP, St John’s Tralee, on Sabbatical until July 2017.
Fr Tom Leane PP Ballyheigue to be PP Dromtarriffe.
Fr Liam Comer PP Dromtarriffe to be PP Ardfert.
Fr Tadhg Fitzgerald PP Ardfert to be PP St John’s Tralee.
Fr George Hayes Vice-Rector Irish College Rome to be PP Glenflesk.
Fr Pat Moore to retire as PP of Duagh due to health reasons.
Rev Sean Jones newly ordained Deacon to his Pastoral Placement in the Listowel Pastoral area.
Following the transfer of Fr Tom Leane PP, the parish of Ballyheigue will be served by the priests of the Naomh Bhréanainn Pastoral Area, with Fr Liam Comer as Moderator.
Following Fr Pat Moore retiring as PP of Duagh, the parish of Duagh will be served by the priests of the Listowel Pastoral Area with Fr Declan O’ Connor as Moderator.
Priests of all pastoral areas of the diocese take up different responsibilities outside their own parishes in the pastoral area. This will be decided and communicated locally.
These changes will become effective on Wednesday, July 20.