THE Raphoe Diocese in Donegal appears to be bucking the national trend when it comes to the age profile of serving priests here.
According to a national survey published last month just 52 Irish priests were under the age of forty.
Approximately 300 were over the age of 75 and still working and a quarter were aged over 60.
Fr Michael McKeever PP Gartan and Termon compiled the figures on the age profile in the Raphoe Diocese this week for the Donegal News.
The demographic here reflects a considerably younger cohort of working priests than is seen nationally.
Fr Michael explained that these figures are for “priests active in the diocese and does not include Bishop Alan McGuckian or priests on loan to the diocese or the retired priests”.
There are currently three priests in their thirties.
Ten priest in their forties, 14 priests in their fifties, ten priests in their sixties, nine priests in their seventies and two priests in their eighties.
The results of the national survey carried out by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) were presented at the associations annual general meeting in Athlone.
It found that 2,116 priests serve in Ireland’s 26 dioceses, in 1,355 parishes and at more than 2,650 churches or Mass centres.
Of the 2,116, a total of 299, almost 15 per cent, are over 75 and still working. It found that 547, more than 25 per cent, are between 60 and 75.
Just 52, 2.5 per cent, of serving Catholic priests in Ireland are under 40.
The survey found some 47 men are at various stages of studies for priesthood at the national seminary in Maynooth.
Meanwhile, there was speculation this week that Bishop of Raphoe, Rev Alan McGuckian could take the top job in Ireland’s second largest diocese – Down and Connor next month.
Bishop McGuckian’s name was among a number suggested during the week after it emerged that current Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Traenor, has been appointed as the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the European Union by Pope Francis. He will take up his new role next month.
When contacted by the Donegal News this week Bishop McGuckian’s response was that he did not comment on rumour.
Bishop McGuckian’s name was among those of several possible contenders for Bishop Traenor’s successor who have been mooted.
These include Fr Tim Bartlett and Fr Eugene O’Hagan, both priests in Down and Connor, Bishop Michael Router, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh has also been tipped.
Commenting on the speculation as to a successor Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper this week said he believed Fr Bartlett, originally from north Belfast, would be among the top choices.
“One of the front-runners has to be Fr Bartlett. He’s a very popular parish priest, very efficient and obviously has had much involvement in the Church over the years, from parish level to the Irish Bishops Conference.
“There’s also Fr Alan McGuckian, who is originally from Belfast. He is the current bishop of Raphoe, but has worked in the past with Bishop Treanor in the diocese of Down and Connor, so he would be familiar with the diocese. I would say he would be an obvious choice or one in good contention.
“Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh, Michael Router, may also be one of those to the considered. He is someone who is relatively young, he’s aged in his fifties, so he would be able to fulfil the post for the next 20 years or so,” Mr Kelly said.
“There is also Fr Eugene O’Hagan, who is very well respected and always on top of things and knows the diocese well.”