A new lay ministry will be established in Co Kerry to fill the priest shortage and will be open to both women and men.
A quarter of the parishes in the large 53-parish diocese covering parts of West and North Cork now have no resident priest and most priests are over 50 years old.
The new role of lay lay pastoral leader will fill some of the roles “traditionally performed by priests,” depending on local needs, the diocese said.
This includes preparation for the sacraments and the connection between home, school and church. Other duties may include visiting elderly and housebound people and people in nursing homes.
The lay preachers are also included in the liturgy of the Mass.
A spokeswoman for the diocese confirmed that the new role will be open to both women and men.
Individuals already involved in church and community work are asked to fill out an expression of interest.
The ideal candidates will work well with others and be willing to commit up to four hours a week to the role for five years, the diocese says.
“Church life in Ireland has changed a lot,” said Bishop Ray Browne wrote in a pamphlet to be distributed en masse this weekend to launch the new role.
One apparent change is that there are fewer clergy, which has resulted in some parishes not having a resident priest, the bishop says.
“People are worried about the future of their communities,” he adds.
In the future, the congregations will be cared for by a clergyman and lay pastoral leaders working together as a team.
“At a time when a priest were more than plentiful, so much remained in their care. Today there are fewer.
“Maintaining the fullness of life in the parish family requires the participation, commitment and guidance of the laity.
“So I wholeheartedly welcome the ‘Ministry of Lay Pastoral Leadership’ that we are beginning.
“The future church will be different, not better or worse!” he says.
The expression of interest form should be placed on the diocesan website and tMeetings will be held here in May to explore the role, with training due to start in September.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/lay-ministers-to-make-up-kerry-priest-shortage-with-women-allowed-to-apply-41512751.html Lay ministers to fill Kerry priest shortage – women allowed to apply