The parish of Kilgarvan is to lose its resident priests in changes in the Diocese of Kerry to be announced on Thursday.
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae, who lives in the village, said it marked the end of the hold of the Catholic Church in Kilgarvan. He has likened the loss of a priest to the closure of a small industry, but he ruled out becoming more involved in lay ministry.
More lay ministry and activity will be needed, Bishop Ray Browne, the Bishop of Kerry, told parishioners in Kilgarvan, where parish priest Fr Con Buckley is to retire.
“Each of the priests in the Kenmare pastoral area will now minister to the parish of Kilgarvan, with one priest talking the lead role as moderator,” said Bishop Browne, outlining the pooling plan in several other areas where parishes have been left without priests.
Kilgarvan, which is on the West Cork/South Kerry border and in the Kenmare pastoral area, will pool with Sneem, Kenmare, Tuosist, and Glengarriff in Cork in a huge geographical area crossing into two peninsulas.
Local resident and church goer Mr Healy-Rae said he was very upset at the news.
“I am very upset at this,” he said. “We have had some brilliant priests here in Kilgarvan.”
He likened what was taking place to the loss of a small industry for the parish. In his youth, Kilgarvan had a presbytery and a presbytery farm, a priest and a housekeeper. Now it will have none of these.
“The Catholic hold on the parish of Kilgarvan is gone,” lamented the TD.
The Garda station had also been closed down, said Mr Healy-Rae, who runs the village post office.
Eamon Horgan, who chairs Kilgarvan Parish Council, said the challenge now is to put a structure in place for Kilgarvan and the real difficulty would be in five or six years when other priests in the wide geographical area would be retiring also.
Other parishes to lose priests in the announcements this weekend are Ballydonoghue and Caherdaniel.
Caherdaniel, the home parish of Daniel O’Connell, will pool with Ballinskelligs, Cahersiveen, Valentia, and Waterville.
Ballydonoghue in North Kerry will team up with Tarbert, Ballybunion, and Ballylongford.
Several parishes are already without resident priests in the 53-parish diocese where some parishes once had two or more churches.