PASTORAL LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF THE PARISHES OF AUGHNAMULLEN EAST, BALLYBAY, CLONTIBRET AND MUCKNO
My Dear Parishioners,
The last 18 months have brought about a lot of change; few places more so than the Parish of Clontibret. It has seen the retirement of Fr Lorcan Lynch and Canon Phil Connolly after nearly 120 years of service between them. Thank you, Fathers, for your generosity of service. The Parish Priest, Fr Paudge McDonnell, who was soon to reach retirement age has experienced health difficulties and is presently recuperating. We wish him a quick return to full health and thank him for his 17 years of dedicated service as Parish Priest. Also retired in the Mid-Monaghan area is Monsignor Gerry McSorley, former Parish Priest of Tullycorbet, whom we thank for his 67 years of service.
The situation in the Parish of Clontibret turns the spotlight on the shortage of clergy. Today in the Diocese of Clogher almost 25 (about 50%) of our priests are over the age of 65 and it will be a number of years before the next man is ordained. This shortage will involve change – in fact, major change. On the one hand it calls on us to work and pray for vocations to the priesthood, the permanent diaconate and religious life. It also challenges the faithful to take greater responsibility for the parish. We might ask ourselves: ‘what gift have I that if offered would bless the parish?’ One obvious way to make a significant contribution is to consider the Permanent Diaconate – an ordained ministry of service in the Church. Another way of service will be through various parish committees covering areas such as liturgy, safeguarding, finance and property as well as groups promoting the Church’s mission in the areas of family life, education, ecumenism, social justice or the environment.
I have asked Fr Adrian Walshe, the Parish Priest of Castleblayney (Muckno) and of Aughnamullen East, to take on the additional role as Parish Priest of Clontibret from the 1st September. I thank him together with the priests serving in the parishes of Muckno, Ballybay (Tullycorbet) and Aughnamullen East – Fr Stephen Duffy, Canon Owen Joe McEneaney and Fr Owen Gorman, respectively – for stepping forward at this critical time to form a united team to serve the Parish of Clontibret together with the other 3 parishes, all working together in the delivery of pastoral ministry to Christ’s people. I also thank Fr PJ McGinnity, retired from ministry in Knoxville, USA, and presently residing in Ballybay, who is always so willing to offer a helping hand.
I want to emphasise that each parish will retain its own identity and will be responsible for its own finances. At the same time, I encourage people, once we exit the Covid restrictions, to feel free and welcome to attend Mass or any other liturgy or prayer moment in any of the churches across the parishes. All our churches will be in use; no church will be closed.
I know you will join me in recognising that these priests already carry a heavy burden, and that this extra work and responsibility will affect ministry across the parishes. I particularly ask for understanding and support, especially in the arranging of Mass times, funerals and baptisms. The parish office in Castleblayney will provide administrative support and will be the contact point for the booking of Masses and other events for Clontibret Parish as well as for any emergencies.
As I said at the outset, we live in changing times and our Church is no different. Our mission is to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ known to all and to be a beacon of love and hope in the world through our life of faith. Jesus remains among us ‘as one who serves’ (Luke 22:27). That service to God the Father is replicated in the various ministries and in our participation in the life of the Church. My hope is that these changes – which will also be a feature of life in other places in the near future – may, over time, increase participation in that life of faith among lay people and lead to a time of renewal for everyone.
Finally, I ask you to continue to support and pray for our priests, for those discerning life in ministry and for me in my ministry as Bishop of Clogher.
Like Simon Peter in today’s Gospel, let us declare anew our faith in the Lord who truly guides us on the right path. ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God’ (John 6: 68-69).
Yours in Christ,
+ Larry Duffy,
Bishop of Clogher
22 August 2021.
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time