Monday 26 June 2017

Sometimes the only man in the church is the priest

Parishioner Rita Fernandez at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Finglas South. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Parishioner Rita Fernandez at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Finglas South. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

With Mass attendance of around 3pc, Finglas is typical of many working-class suburbs in the capital.

Rita is bemused that attendance is so low in her area, while it is much higher in affluent suburbs in South Dublin.

"My niece lived in Stillorgan and she said the church is full. Why is that? Religion used to be the opium of the poor, but for some reason the middle-class churches are doing much better."

On a Sunday at St Oliver Plunkett's Church, between 70 and 100 people turn up in a church that fits 400.

Rita, whose Spanish husband is deceased, says her daughter is religious, but her sons are not interested in the Church.

"The vast majority of those involved are women. I'd say it's about 80pc.

"Sometimes the only man in the church is the priest. I really don't see why women should not be priests.

"Pope Francis is a man of the people but there is a huge fear of women in the Vatican. I think they worry that they would lose their wealth if priests were married with kids.

"I think there is a huge cohort of cardinals, archbishops and bishops in Rome who just don't have a clue. There is a huge gulf between the working parish and what goes on in Rome."

She pays tribute to the priests in her area. "They are over 70 and they work extremely hard, from early in the morning until late at night," she says.

"There are very few young people in the Church. Many families bring their children for First Communion, but once they have been confirmed they are done and dusted.

"People have become more materialistic. In the old days, people had a very curtailed social life. The church was as much a social outlet, as a place to say a few prayers.

"You could go there and wink at the altar boys. It was nice and warm. There was drama and music.

"I think it changed when people were no longer afraid to question authority. The old superstitious church, where people thought they'd break a leg if they didn't go to Mass, died away.

"The idea of the angry God who is going to get his own back on you has gone."

Rita likes to pray often, including first thing in the morning and last thing at night. On Sunday, she says 'Grace' before meals

"I could be walking my dog, and I do a prayer of the senses, where I focus on what I am looking at and hearing. I thank God for the beauty of nature."

Rita Fernandez is an active worshipper in the parish of Finglas South in Dublin

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