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'I was asked if I was the housekeeper!'

Name: Fr Binoy Matthew

Age: 40

Country of origin: India

Where he's based: Parish priest in of Huntstown, Mountview, Blakestown and Hartstown in West Dublin

When he came to Ireland: September 2010


Fr Binoy Matthew at the Sacred Heart Church in Huntstown, Co Dublin. Photo by Steve Humphreys

Fr Binoy Matthew at the Sacred Heart Church in Huntstown, Co Dublin. Photo by Steve Humphreys

Fr Binoy Matthew at the Sacred Heart Church in Huntstown, Co Dublin. Photo by Steve Humphreys

Indian missionary Fr Binoy Matthew turned 40 at the end of January and for the past four years he has served as parish priest of a cluster of Dublin parishes - Huntstown, Mountview, Blakestown and Hartstown.

He is part of an international team of four Divine Word priests based in the parochial house in Mountview.

The team hail from Ghana, Ireland, China and India. "When I introduce the four of us at Confirmation or Communion, I always say we are a real indication of the universality of the church. I think it is going to become more and more like that.

"I came to Ireland in September 2010 and then in 2016 I was naturalised as an Irish citizen. The naturalisation has helped me because it is easier for me to travel in Europe. Plus, I found applying for a religious visa really tough. The rules are not helpful for missionaries."

During his time in Ireland, the young priest has studied part-time for an MSc in Business Resource Management at the Smurfit Business School.

Prior to taking up his role in Dublin, Fr Binoy served as co-parish priest in Arklow for three years. In multicultural west Dublin, an Indian priest is not so unusual but in the small rural parishes around Arklow, "I really felt that being a foreign priest was a novelty".

It hasn't all been plain sailing. "A couple of times in Arklow, when someone called to the house looking for a priest, and I answered, I was asked if I was the housekeeper! It's hurtful but I try to understand it from their perspective - fear of the unknown. People who come to church regularly aren't afraid because they have got to know you. But if there is a funeral or baptisms, it can be difficult to break the ice."

Fr Binoy is lucky to also have a social network in Ireland including some cousins who are also living and working here.

"I come from southern India - Kerala. From my home parish in India there are at least 15 families working in Ireland, people that I have known for ages."

As to the challenges of ministering to the Irish faithful, he admits he finds their participation in the liturgy and music "very poor".

"I think faith is quite spontaneous there (in India)compared to the West. That kind of celebratory mode and spontaneity is missing here."

When Fr Binoy arrived in 2010, the Ryan Report and the Murphy Report into church abuse had recently been published.

"I was trying to understand what exactly was going on; then I realised the depth of the issue." Nonetheless, he hasn't experienced any negative reactions from people over the abuse scandals. "Irish people have treated me very well. I hope to stay here and continue to minister to the local church here."

Indo Review