Priests are "dying on their feet" trying to cover funerals as the number of men joining the priesthood continues to decline, according to Fr Paddy Byrne.
While fewer and fewer people are attending mass services every year, traditional Catholic funerals are still a fundamental part of the grieving process for many Irish families.
On The Pat Kenny Show, Portlaoise priest Fr Paddy Byrne said he "always welcomes" families partaking in Catholic rituals for the deaths of their loved ones.
"The problem is, we're dying on our feet, and I say that with regret," he said
"[There was] an expectation of service when there was an abundant amount of clergy and now that we're at a minimum, it's unsustainable and will not carry into the future as we do it."
Fr Byrne said the priesthood has a responsibility to help people connect with "the spiritual" when they are grieving.
"My responsibility as a priest, not in high leadership or anything, but certainly I have to engage, to build relationships," he said.
In cases where families are grieving tragic deaths and suicides, Fr Byrne said the Church should be providing families with some peace.
"That whole community is affected, not just their loved ones, and people with hungry hearts for meaning and purpose in life [are] coming to church to find peace, to find a sense of hope," he said.
"I believe, fundamentally, that the ritual of funeral is so important."
Fr Byrne said the Church must take accountability for its role in the vocation crisis.
"We have a responsibility to perhaps put our hands up as Church and say, 'Well, actually, unfortunately, we got to this point by failing to listen to the people on the ground'," he said.
"By failing to listen to women, in terms of allowing women to take a full place in ministry.
"Failing to listen to the clergy themselves – many feel isolated, many of them missed the opportunity of having a partner in life, having children, that perhaps would have given us a much wider perspective and more relevant perspective when it comes to engaging with people.
"It's up to the Irish bishops respectfully, the leaders of the Irish church, who are given that authority ... to actually engage and listen and put those opinions vociferously in the context that we are dying on our feet."
Fr Byrne said he cannot envision the Church embracing a new model to encourage vocations.
"Cautiously, and maybe I don't want to be cynical, but certainly, I can't see that happening," he said.
"Time is running out and I don't really know what our future holds."
The shortage has meant that many priests in their 70s and 80s are unable to retire from service.
"I do think that it is really sad that adults over a certain age – in their 70s and 80s – deemed vulnerable, and they're expected to get out there and to do the business of running parishes," he said.
"There's no real justice in that.
"The fact that people continue to have the same expectations on men in their 80s as they did when they were 40 – I don't think it would happen in any other way of life in modern Ireland."
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