There were just three ordinations to the priesthood in Scotland in 2014, igniting fears that the Church may run out of priests in the foreseeable future.
The three new Scottish priests for 2014 were ordained in Edinburgh, Motherwell and Dunkeld. This year it is believed only one ordination is taking place – in the Diocese of Motherwell.
The figures confirm an informal survey conducted by Fr Michael Conroy of Corpus Christi, Scotstounhill, Glasgow, who has identified just 279 deployable priests in Scotland and a sharply rising age profile, leading to fears that the “strong army” of priests is in terminal retreat and the locally-based parish priest an “endangered species”.
Commenting on the figures, (which exclude ordained Religious), Fr Conroy asked “What ecclesiology will you have if you don't have priests? What kind of Church?”
The Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, said in his homily for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations that the priesthood now presents a “daunting” challenge to young men. His opposite number in Edinburgh, Archbishop Leo Cushley, has launched an initiative to encourage young men to “come and see”, in a bid to encourage vocations. At present there are only 25 seminarians from Scottish dioceses, with a bulge of seven in the diocese of Motherwell.
A restructuring process is under way in a number of dioceses that will take account of both falling Mass attendances and the current shortage of priests. In St Andrews and Edinburgh, it has been suggested that just 33 priests will serve 111 parishes by the end of the decade.