The reduction in Sunday Masses in Dungloe is an isolated case and is not part of a wider diocesan policy.
This was confirmed at the weekend by Fr Michael McKeever, the diocesan secretary for the Diocese of Raphoe.
However, Fr McKeever did not rule out the issue becoming one in other parishes in the diocese in the future and in time an issue fo the diocese itself.
Dungloe, which is in the parish of Templecrone, is being reduced from two Masses to one on a Sunday.
And in further cutbacks the Mass on Saturday morning is to be no more. The last Saturday morning Mass in Dungloe was held on Saturday last.
The 10am Mass on weekdays will also be impacted and there will be no 10am Mass, on any day there is an 11 am funeral.
There are currently two services in Dungloe, on a Sunday at 9 am and 11 pm and one of these will go.
Fr Aodhán Cannon is the parish priest in the parish of Templecrone and is based in Dungloe.
The decision to make the changes was made by Fr Cannon after the parish was reduced from three priests down to two following the transfer of Fr Nigel Gallagher, to Annagry a number of months ago.
“The Dungloe decision is a decision being made purely by the parish priest in Dungloe,” Fr Michael McKeever, told the Democrat/People’s Press, in response to a query on the issue.
Not diocesan policy
“It is not part of diocesan policy and has nothing got to do with the diocese,” the diocesan secretary insisted.
“It is not an issue that has been discussed yet in the diocese. But that does not mean that it will not be discussed in the future.
“The Dungloe decision was taken only because of the reduction in the number of priests.
“There are currently six Sunday Masses in the parish of Templecrone - Dungloe, three and one each in Meenacross, Lettermacaward and Doochary.
“It was not possible for the two remaining priests to cover six Masses over the two days (Saturday vigil Mass) and Sunday. And besides the maximum number of Masses a priest is allowed celebrate is two,” explained Fr McKeever.
The diocesan secretary is not aware of any other reduction in any other parish in the diocese.
However, he did admit he would not rule it out in the future.
Given the age profile of the clergy in the diocese and the low number of new priests coming through the system, he said he would be surprised if it did not become an issue for other parishes.
Fr McKeever, confirmed there are currently two students from the diocese studying for the priesthood, one in Maynooth and the other in Rome.
“It is not an issue but I have no doubt it is going to come up in the future and we (the diocese) are going to have to discuss it and ask the question are there too many Masses.
“There is no getting away from it with less priests there are going to have to be fewer Masses.”
The final decision on which of the services in Dungloe - the 9 am or 11 pm - is to go, is still being considered.
“It is still under review and it is a case of deciding which of them is to go,” said Fr Aodhán Cannon PP, for the parish of Templecrone.
“It is not necessarily a case where one of the times will go. It could very well be a case where we might come up with a new time in between.
“I'm currently discussing the matter with a number of people and also listening to feedback from parishioners.”
The reduction in services seems to have been accepted by the parish.
Fr Cannon, through the parish newsletter sought responses and submissions both verbal and written over the last couple of weekends and so far he said he has received very few complaints.