A blessing in disguise
A LACK of Catholic priests means Mullumbimby parishioners such as Pat Dailhou now have to 'make do' with a priest from Byron Bay and travel to Brunswick Heads for church services every second Sunday.
The Catholic Church has lost four priests in the region in the past 12 months, leaving churchgoers saddened, especially elderly ones at Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads who have had their own priest for decades.
Priests at Murwillumbah and Kempsey have retired due to ill health and two priests died in a road accident on the Pacific Highway last Easter.
Byron Parish secretary Trish Bleakley said there were simply not enough priests to go around, forcing Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett to expand the borders of the Byron Parish to include Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads.
Ms Dailhou said Mullumbimby parishioners were sad to lose their priest and upset about the disruptions.
“You get to know your priest, so we're sad we don't have our own priest any more,” she said.
Fellow parishioner Pat Plater said they would 'go along and do the best we can', but the changes were particularly tough on older churchgoers who would find it difficult to travel to Brunswick Heads for church services on alternate Sundays.
“Our parish will survive, but it is a pity,” she said.
Bishop Jarrett said it had caused him pain and discomfort to amalgamate the church communities.
Sunday morning services at St Finbarrs in Byron Bay will be scrapped, while the 7am service on Sunday at Brunswick Heads and the 8.30am service at nearby Mullumbimby will be amalgamated.
An 8am service will be held on alternate Sundays at Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby. The 9.15am service at Bangalow will be held at 10am.
From July 5 Byron parish priest Fr Anthony Lemon will be taking over the four churches, covering for Fr David Gilbey, who will be transferred to Murwillumbah.
Mrs Bleakley said the changes were hardest for the older generation.
“The services they attend have been part of their routine for so long,” she said.
Fr Lemon said the church was looking at ways to ensure parishioners could still get to Mass, including car pooling and the church hiring small buses.