'I am blessed to have found my calling -- a great many are never given that gift'
A CHILDHOOD dream came true for a young man yesterday as he was ordained into the priesthood by the Papal Nuncio.
Fr Damien Lynch (26) was ordained in St Gobnait's Church in Ballyvourney in Cork's Diocese of Cloyne in front of his proud parents Ger and Nora, friends, neighbours and classmates from Maynooth seminary.
A total of 82 clergy attended the ordination which was the first in the Diocese of Cloyne for five years -- and the first in Ballyvourney and Cuil Aodha for almost 80 years.
Fr Damien admitted to the Irish Independent that it was a day he had dreamt about since childhood.
"As long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a priest -- ever since I was a small boy," he said.
"It is actually not that unusual -- a lot of my classmates in Maynooth have had the same experience," he said.
Friends revealed that, as a child, Fr Damien loved to 'play Mass' -- and even recruited his friends as altar boys.
Deacon Lynch yesterday became Fr Damien after an ordination service led by Ireland's new Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown.
The Papal Nuncio was invited to lead the ceremony by Archbishop Dermot Clifford, who has been administering the Diocese of Cloyne for the past three years since the resignation of former Bishop, Dr John Magee.
Dr Brown said that the packed church rejoiced in "this beautiful moment" for the young priest.
"The church in Ireland is alive. A new priest is about to be ordained.
"The faith continues. Damien, we pray for you today that you will be a good and holy priest," he said.
Fr Lynch -- who will now take up parish duties in the sprawling Cork diocese -- is the only child of Ger and Nora Lynch.
They said they were "absolutely delighted" for their son. "This is a great day for everyone. We are very proud," they said.
Fr Lynch is a fluent Irish speaker hailing from the Cork Gaeltacht of Cuil Aodha.
A former student of Scoil Cuil Aodha and Colaiste Ghobnatan in Ballyvourney, he began his studies in Maynooth in 2004 after completing his Leaving Cert.
He now holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy and Nua-Ghaeilge and a Baccalaureate in Divinity from the Pontifical University.
He was ordained a deacon by Dr Clifford at a special ceremony in Maynooth last January.
He will now take up parish duties in Cork after having previously undertaken pastoral placements in Newbridge, Co Kildare, and Mallow, Co Cork.
Fr Lynch is a renowned musician -- and said he hoped to continue his musical involvement in his new parish.
"I really love music -- I play the organ and was a member of the college choir in Maynooth," he said.
Fr Lynch said he couldn't imagine doing anything else -- and considers himself blessed to have found his calling.
"Certainly I have no regrets -- I am very lucky to be able to say that I am doing something I have always wanted to do. A great many people are never given that gift," he said.
Fr Lynch now becomes the youngest parish cleric in the Diocese of Cloyne. He will celebrate his first Mass at 7pm tonight.
The diocese -- which boasts 46 parishes spread from the Kerry to the Waterford borders -- has a total of 86 clerics assigned to full-time parish duties.
However, this is less than half the number of clerics on full-time parish duties just 30 years ago.
The figure does not include retired priests who help with parish duties and holiday relief or clerics assigned to non-parish work.