THE CATHOLIC Church in Ayrshire is facing an almighty crunch.
Ageing priests, fewer going to Mass, and the financial crisis have hit it hard.
And now a document spells out that parishes will have to merge or share a priest.
The shock paper reveals there is no priest under 30 in the whole Diocese of Galloway (Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway).
And the RC church is massively reliant on older priests, with only six out of 25 in the diocese under 50.
The recent death of the Ayr St Paul Parish Church priest, Fr Alan Wilson, aged 58, has added further urgency for change.
And the paper says Ayr’s two parishes – the other being the Cathedral Church of St Margaret – should share one priest.
The Waterside and Drongan parishes would also be lumped in to one of the Ayr parishes, and the rural buildings sold.
Troon and an already merged parish of Prestwick and Mossblown would also share a priest. So would Girvan and Maybole.
Cumnock and Auchinleck would merge, with NO Sunday Mass planned for Auchinleck – just a weekday one. And a merged Cumnock and Auchinleck will share a priest with Muirkirk.
Although the church says the paper is ‘a dialogue’, it spells out: “There must be changes.”
And it admits: “What was suitable in the past is now no longer sustainable.”
The paper starkly points out: “This is a matter of deep regret, but it has to be recognised that with a decreasing number of active clergy, the falling number of parishioners, and the financial realities of the present economic climate, the present number of properties cannot be sustained.”
Some voices in the Catholic Church believe it could do worse than develop its pastoral care along lines more akin to the Church of Scotland.
This would see more being done by trusted and
sympathetic lay people, if a priest is unavailable.
And the discussion paper admits there are often
‘unrealistic expectations of priests’.
For many have other duties outwith parish responsibilities.
But the author or authors of the paper – presumably speaking for the Bishop of Galloway, Bishop John Cunningham – don’t want to bring in foreign priests.
For the paper clearly states: “ We do not see the solution to be importing priests from outwith the diocese, whether that be from Africa, India, Poland or wherever.”