A study conducted by the National University of Ireland had found that the average age of an Irish priest is now 108.
The number of priests dying or retiring far outweighs the number joining the ranks, leading to an unprecedented crisis in the catholic church here.
Hundreds of parishes all over the country now have a parish priest who is over 100 years old and can’t say mass because he’s barely capable of talking.
The National Seminary at Saint Patrick’s College in Maynooth, which was built to train 500 catholic priests every year, currently has one man training to be a priest, 98 year-old Fintan Donlon.
So what’s it like to be the only man in Ireland about to join the priesthood and why make the move so late in life? Fintan agreed to meet us to discuss this and what role he sees the church playing in a rapidly changing Irish society.
Unfortunately as we pulled up outside the seminary in Maynooth for our interview, Fintan was being carried out in a coffin. Church officials told us he died of natural causes.
So now that there is nobody training to join the priesthood in Ireland and with mass attendances plummeting, what kind of future does the catholic church have in this country? We asked professor Philip McIntyre, head of theology at the National University of Ireland.
“Just a few short years ago the catholic church in Ireland would take in around €2 million per week from collection baskets alone at mass. Last week they took in forty quid. Going by those numbers I think we can safely say the future is not bright for the catholic church in this country. Or to put it another way, they’re fucked!”