The growth of Glasgow, City and Church
In the late 18th century and the 19th century, the city of Glasgow grew because of the industrial revolution, the Highland Clearances and the Potato Famine in Ireland and Scotland. The Catholic Church opened its first mission in Glasgow since the reformation in 1792. The city's population in 1801 was 77,000. This was to increase rapidly, reaching 1.1 million souls by 1921. The archdiocese was re-established in 1878 and there were 30 parishes to look after the growing number of Catholics. Many of the priests serving in Glasgow came from Ireland.
Glasgow after the Second World War
After the War, the city council began to demolish the slum tenements and build new housing estates around the city. It also co-operated with the development of several New Towns. In 1948, the Archdiocese was divided into 3 dioceses: Glasgow, Motherwell and Paisley. The Archdiocese had shrunk in size and now only comprised the city itself and Dunbartonshire. In the 25 years from 1945 till 1970, the diocese opened 38 new parishes in the city of Glasgow. However, the city population was falling, down to 825,000 by 1971 and to 650,000 in 1981.
The Frequency of Sacraments
As the city population has fallen, so too have Mass attendance and the celebration of the sacraments. Mass attendance is down 51% since 1987, baptisms down 47%, weddings down 78% and funerals down 21%. On the one hand there are fewer people living in many of the parishes, and on the other hand, changes in society seem to have distanced people from the church and its involvement in their lives.
Priests in the Diocese
We have been used in the past to having 2, 3 or even 4 priests in a parish. Those days are gone. In 1977 there were 285 diocesan priests serving in the diocese: today there are 85, a drop of 70%. The average age of priests has increased and with that comes more complex health issues. Projecting forward, the number of priests in twenty years time will be 45 or fewer.
Looking to the future
It is time for us to plan the future of the diocese. None of us likes change but it is coming and we should try to shape it rather than being forced to react to circumstances. With fewer priests in the near future, where and how best can they be deployed so that the Gospel can continue to be made known and the whole community served? How might your parish or deanery look?
Roadmap for Planning
Before Christmas - Meeting in each deanery of all priests, deacons and parish council members
New Year - Discussion paper for Parish Pastoral Councils
Lent - Strategic Meeting in deaneries with priests and 2 members of each PPC
Archbishop meets each priest individually