Ireland is facing a major shortage of priests with the number of vocations taking a dramatic plunge.
The chronic shortage could see couples sharing wedding ceremonies, some parishes not having Sunday Mass and even Funeral services shared.
The Catholic Courier reports new figures on vocations published in the 2008 Irish Catholic Directory show the country lost 160 priests last year - mostly because of death in old age - and had only nine new ordinations.
Currently there are about 4,750 priests in Ireland, however if trends continue, by 2028 Ireland will have fewer than 1,500 priests.
Dublin diocesan vocations director Fr Eamonn Bourke said the trend has been known among priests for "some time."
"But many lay people are only beginning to become aware of the implications and the dramatic effect that the fall in vocations will have," Fr Bourke said.
"It will mean parish amalgamations, it will mean some parishes not having daily Masses and it will probably mean some parishes not having a Mass every Sunday," he said.
"Couples will not be able to get married on their own - it's more likely that they will make their wedding vows with at least another couple sharing the ceremony. The same will apply to funeral Masses," he said
Fr Bourke said the decline in vocations was demoralising to priests.
The statistics for vocations in women is bleaker still with only two religious sisters taking vows in 2007.
The number of female religious declined by 228 last year, chiefly because of death from old age.
(Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin pictured)
Irish directory shows Ireland heading toward major priest shortage (Catholic Courier 27/02/08)