Cash Crisis Prompts Public Appeal from Killala Bishop

Western People [Ireland]
November 15, 2006

Bishop John Fleming, in a letter to the priests and people of Killala diocese, has launched an appeal for funds for the parishes and the diocese of Killala.

Eighteen years after the last appeal - by Bishop Thomas Finnegan in 1988 --Bishop Fleming has appealed to the people of the diocese to increase the weekly contribution because 'with the decline in weekly Mass attendance, the income we receive from the envelopes has not increased in line with inflation.' Extra funds are needed not just to sustain the present level of services but to focus on a number of clear priorities. A six-point plan for the diocese into the future is envisaged. This will include programmes for the spiritual welfare of young people; the development of the gifts and energies of lay people at a time when priest numbers are declining; adult faith formation; an enhancement of the celebration of Mass by raising standards of music, reading, liturgy; and new forms of support for priests as they become fewer and older. A special concern will be an acceptable level of support for retired priests in terms of income, accommodation and health care.

" During the past five years no priest has been ordained for the diocese and at present we do not have any seminiarians . . .," said Bishop Fleming. "At the earliest, therefore, we cannot expect to ordain a priest for this diocese before the year

2012. In the meantime a number of priests will retire from ministry and the workload on our priests will increase greatly."

A unique feature of the bishop's appeal for funds is the publication, for the first time, of a statement of diocesan accounts for the year 2005. This development is to be welcomed.

In 2005 the diocese collected •279,072 and spent

• 279,784. Apart from this, the Sick and Retired Priests' Fund collected •165,075 and spent a figure of •165,115.

While the diocese is struggling to remain solvent, it is clear that extra monies need to be collected if the plans outlined in Bishop Fleming's letter are to be delivered. The diocesan reserve, amounting to approximately

• 900,000, has been "set aside for issues which may arise from the past. . . thank God, to date, the diocese has not been asked to make payments for the sexual abuse of children and further I wish to state that no money collected at parish level will be given to compensation in any sexual abuse case," the bishop said.

Bishop Fleming admits that the salaries of priests of his diocese are considered low "in comparison with other dioceses" in Ireland. He provides details of the salaries of bishop, parish priests and curates. As bishop he himself earns a gross annual salary of •24,000 or

• 462 per week. Parish priests earn a basic salary of

• 13,200 a year which, with Mass offerings and other stipends, reaches a gross figure of •16,200 or •312 per week. Curates earn a basic

• 12,600 which with Mass offerings and stipends comes to approximately

• 15,600 or •300 a week.

In his appeal for an increase in contributions, Bishop Fleming distinguished three areas of need: parish, diocese, and national. At local parish level the need is more tangible in that people have a direct experience of "priests of the parish providing Sunday Mass for you, being present to celebrate your baptisms, weddings and funerals and being available to care for your schools, your community centres and your individual needs," but work at diocesan and national levels needs to be supported too. At diocesan level funding is needed for the general administration of the diocese, to resource religious education at primary level and for a more significant programme of religious education at second level. The diocese also makes a significant financial contribution to a number of national agencies, namely: Cura, Accord, the needs of prisoners overseas, marriage tribunals, the work of the Irish bishops' conference etc. which in turn delivers a service within the diocese.

"In making this appeal I urge you to increase your contributions to the Church at local and diocesan level ...

I am conscious that while many Catholics are generous in giving of themselves and their resources to the Church, others do not respond to the needs in proportion to what they possess. The result is that the lack of resources seriously hampers the Church's ability to carry out its mission and it obstructs people's growth in the life of faith and in their awareness of what it means to be truly Christian."

Bishop Fleming will speak at Masses in all parishes of the diocese during the coming weeks and will visit the four deaneries during which he hopes to engage directly in discussion with the people at a series of meetings being put in place in each deanery. Copies of a summary of the bishop's letter and a colour brochure were distributed at all Masses in all churches of the diocese.

The full Pastoral Letter was available in all churches throughout the Diocese from this weekend and extra copies are available at the diocesan offices (tel. 096 21518).

A sub-committee of priests and lay people - Liam McAndrew, Belmullet (Chairman), Fr Paddy Hoban, Killala (Vice-chairman), Monsignor Seamus Heverin (Diocesan Financial Administrator), Catherine Hannon, Dromore West (Secretary), Barry McLoughlin, Ballina and Frs Francis Judge, Belmullet, Michael O'Horo, Skreen and Anthony Gillespie, Moygownagh - advised the bishop on a programme of initiatives designed to focus attention on the financial and other needs of parish and diocese as part of a long-term and continuing process of encouraging people to examine and to act on the implications of being a Catholic today.


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