Who will teach us the word of God and the life of a Catholicism ?
Over the year’s society has changed in mind, body, soul, and spirituality. Like many young Irish Catholicism is constantly explored and question as an organised religion. Like many Irish people, I was baptised and raised as a Catholic.
In my local area, the parish of Eadestown, Co Kildare, our priest (Father Michael) recently celebrated his jubilee. This was an amazing celebration in our community. It brought all sides of our community from the GAA, Chomoltas, ICA and the protestant faith followers together; the celebration consisted of mass celebrated by Bishop Eamon Walsh and a community meal in a community hall prepared by the community. The sad part of celebrating Fr Michael’s jubilee was that it is unlikely to reoccur in not only our Parish but in the general church community.
In Ireland over the last decade there has been a major shortage of priests and Eadestown Parish are blessed that he has graciously agreed to remain as our priest for two more years (God willing). Our priest does not only hold mass for our parish he also assists in the neighbouring parish of Blessington. Many meetings have been held to discuss the way forward for a small parish without a resident priest. Other local parishes are also struggling to get their priest to stay on for longer than their time.
With this pressing issue, we ask ourselves what will happen to our parishes and as result our community? Are there less priests in the dioceses because the current generation find there are too many restrictions in priesthood or is it because of the horrific stories exploited in the media about members of the clergy? But no matter the reason what happens small rural communities without a parish as a focal point.
As you know, members of the clergy are not allowed to marry or have any kind of sexual relationship. After spreading the word of God, priesthood can be very lonely without loved ones around you. Like every human being we all need the support and love from another human. Personally, I feel that if the vow of celibacy was rescinded it would increase the numbers in two ways.
Firstly, it will attract new young men with a deep faith but a need for the support of a wife and family. Secondly, I believe there are married men, especially retired, who would welcome the opportunity to serve their God as a priest. Fr Michael argued that “the celibacy vows are not contributing in any major way”, he continued “Priests who are married also miss vocations because of the vocation to a family” and he stated that “taking on the vows shows how dedicated you are to God”.
Perhaps with tongue in cheek I suggest the obvious…. women priests. Put simply Eadestown Parish like numerous parishes throughout Ireland would not function without Women. The sacristans are women, the choir mistresses are women and the family mass group is run by females. For fear of insulting the men of Eadestown who participate in all these functions, they are organised and driven by women. So, my point is if women show such determination to pass on the faith in all these ways why can they not be made official.
Fr Michael thinks that a label should not be placed on the work that women in parishes take on “the deeds women are doing to spread the faith, is priestly work”, although they may not be recognised as a priest by the dioceses, they will be recognised as an apostle. He continued by saying that “it`s not going to happen overnight and won`t for a while because it is against tradition”. Of course, Fr Michael makes an important point that it will take time before women will be given the right to become a priest. However, he is disregarding a solution to the problem and that is one of the reasons why the issues are still at hand because priests will not drop the prayer book and open to re-organising the priesthood.
Fr Michael ended the interview with “unless every person, whether it`s a teenager or an adult, believe in Jesus Christ and unless they have some sort of relationship and want to come into a church and thank God, well nothing else matters”. I feel that Fr Michael believes that society has not given up on religion and that numbers in the dioceses will increase in years to come, but we and many others still wait for numbers to rise.
How long will it be till there will be no one to consecrate the bread and wine, to forgive us our sins before we transfer into the next world, to mark our brows with ashes reminding us that from dust we came and to dust we will return ……….