By Alan Healy

The Bishop of Derry has urged more lay people to get involved with the running of the church after it emerged that only two priests are currently training to join the local diocese.

There are two seminarians currently studying to take up postings in the Derry, with a diocesan spokesperson adding that it expects another two students to have also taken up studies as of September this year.

At present, the the Diocese of Derry has 75 diocesan priests in active ministry, plus one Indian priest (working with the Syro-Malabar rite), one Polish priest (working with the Polish community) and three other Irish priests from different religious congregations.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Christian Church in full communion with Rome.

In addition, there was an ordination in the local diocese in in each of the last three years, Fr Sean O’Donnell in 2015, Fr Chris McDermott in 2016 and Fr Malachy Gallagher this year.

However, speaking to the Derry News this week, the Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, that ‘challenges’ still exist for the church in finding new personnel, adding that it was also vital for lay people within the diocese to be developed so that they are ‘fit for mission’.

“The challenge for Church is not just to find personnel to maintain traditional structures but how to look forward, and not back, and adapt in such a way that we cease to be focussed on maintenance, and develop laity and clergy in a way that they are fit for mission – making, forming and sending new disciples of Christ,” the Bishop said.

He added that there still remained a ‘huge demand’ for spiritual support in the local diocese, and that a ‘change of culture’ was needed to ensure that lay people became more involved in evangelistic activity.

“Yes, I keep encouraging people to pray for more vocations to priesthood and to religious life as there remains a huge demand for spiritual support and growth,” Bishop McKeown added.

“But there is also a parallel call to laity to take up their various apostolates that are part of being a Christian.

“That change of culture will involve a diocesan wide process of training and formation.

“So I find this an exciting and energising time as we become a missionary Church in Ireland.”

He continued: “Away back in 1979 Pope John Paul II said in Ireland that each generation ‘is like a new continent to be conquered for Christ’.”

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