Parishioners at St. Brigid's Church in Newry, Northern Ireland were disappointed to learn that the only Sunday mass in English has been discontinued due to the shortage of priests.
The worshippers are left with the option to attend the Saturday evening service or the Sunday mass that is conducted in Polish, according to Belfast Telegraph. The weekly services were also cut down from three to just one, which will be held every Friday evening.
The 9:30 a.m. Saturday mass in the city's cathedral has also been scrapped along with the Saturday vigil at St. Mary's Old Chapel and other services.
The members of the congregation were upset that they were not consulted prior to the announcement of the changes, and they were disappointed that the petition containing 600 signatures was not acknowledged.
Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey expressed his grief about the decision, but he said that changes were necessary.
"There is a sadness to it, of course there is. People are attached to their own Mass, their own church, and sometimes even their own seat. I say this with respect because we all have habits, particularly with religious practice," the bishop told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I have a responsibility to make sure there is adequate provision of services, but I also have a responsibility to make sure priests do not find themselves with a burden that is unsustainable. I don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, and that's our clergy," the bishop continued.
He explained that the falling priest numbers and the low church attendance, with the exception of Christmas Eve, were the main reasons for the changes.
There used to be nine priests serving the Newry Parish a decade ago, but now, there are just three.
McAreavey said that the numbers celebrating mass in St. Brigid's had been monitored for six months, and it showed that the attendance was higher on Saturday evenings than on Sunday mornings at 11:30 a.m.
SDLP Newry councilor Gary Stokes described the move as the "end of an era" for St. Brigid's. He also pointed out that people at his own parish of St. Mary's were disappointed by the loss of their Saturday vigil mass.
Stokes stated that he and other elected officials are attempting to schedule a meeting with McAreavey to discuss the issue, according to The Irish News. The councilor said that he had heard suggestions that the 9:30 a.m. mass in St. Brigid's could be conducted in both languages.