A PRIEST'S congregation has increased tenfold in a week -- thanks to a quickie Mass.
Despite the controversies which have rocked the church in recent years and the resulting fall-off in attendances at church services, Fr Michael Kenny has been packing them in at his Kilconly parish in Co Galway.
The popular priest started his 15-minute Mass as nothing more than an experiment at the start of Lent, just over a week ago. And he attributes the speed of the service to foregoing a sermon -- and having the help of a Eucharistic minister for communion.
The regular morning Mass at 9am had been drawing an attendance of just three or four up to the start of his no-frills experiment.
Fr Kenny decided to bring the time back to 7.30am and guarantee he would keep parishioners no longer than a quarter of a hour.
Attendances at the small north Galway parish church have now soared to between 30 and 40, with Mass-goers walking out the door by 7.45am.
"The general view among parishioners is that the 9am Mass was totally unsuitable for people going to work.
"Now, more and more people are coming along to the Mass at 7.30am as they know they can be on their way to work or school 15 or 20 minutes later and it is far more suitable," said Fr Kenny.
Fr Kenny explained that he was very conscious of the work commitments of his parishioners when he opted to try out the quickie Mass at 7.30am.
He decided to abandon the usual sermon and enlisted the help of a minister of the Eucharist to ensure that the congregation would be on its way by 7.45am.
"We have to think of the needs of people who have to travel long distances to work, some to Galway city 40km away.
"The only way they could be in time for work while also attending morning Mass during Lent is by being out of the church by 7.45am.
"We are not leaving anything out of the Mass. Everything is there, but of course I do not make any sermon. People seem to like the idea as I have the help of a Eucharistic minister each day and that speeds up the service," Fr Kenny said.
He added: "We are here to facilitate the congregation and if there are any further increases in numbers attending, then the more the merrier."
Local parishioner, Marie Woolley, from Castlegrove, said the quick Mass had worked out so well in Kilconly that she hoped the practice would be repeated in other parishes.
"It is very refreshing to go to Mass so early every morning and you feel spiritually uplifted for the rest of the day. Fr Kenny has come up with a great idea and I hope other churches copy what he is doing," she said.
Frank and Noreen Curley, from Ballyroe, said the early Mass lasting 15 minutes suited everybody -- especially Frank, who travels to work in Tuam.
"Fair play to Fr Michael for factoring in the work needs of his parishioners when planning the morning Mass during Lent," said Frank.