Winning people’s trust back after scandals is key – newly-ordained US cleric
For years this country sent priests overseas to save souls -- now one American has come here to take his vows and return the favour.
But despite being born and raised in the US Midwest, Shane Sullivan (28) is just one generation removed, the son of an Irish emigrant who speaks the native tongue fluently.
Yesterday he was ordained a deacon in St Patrick's College Maynooth, Co Meath.
After arriving here four years ago, Shane has taken the final step to becoming a priest, ahead of his full ordination in June.
His US accent is also peppered with the local vocabulary of Tuam, Co Galway, where he studies, not far from his father's home village of Kilkieran, Connemara.
"I only came once before, when I was 16. I fell in love with the country and the people especially," Rev O'Sullivan told the Irish Independent immediately after his ordination ceremony yesterday.
He decided he wanted to be a priest while still in his early 20s and spent a number of years studying in a seminary in Minnesota where he grew up, before deciding to cross the Atlantic.
"I remember reading a couple of articles when I was studying in the States about the troubles that the Irish Church is having and it really moved me and inspired me to come and help out, even the little bit that I am able to contribute to the renewal of the church in this country," he explained.
Watching on yesterday were Rev O'Sullivan's father Bart and mother Kathleen, who is originally from Chicago.
Once ordained, the young priest will be assigned to a parish in Galway or Mayo and admits that he faces a challenging time amid the much-changed position of the Catholic Church in Irish society.
"There's plenty of other challenges to being a priest in Ireland right now in winning people's trust back after the scandals and re-establishing a bit of integrity."
Damien Lynch, from Coolea in Co Cork, was also ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Cloyne in yesterday's ceremony.
And at a separate ceremony, a former welder swapped his tools for a prayer book when he was ordained into the priesthood by Cardinal Sean Brady yesterday.
The Cistercian Community in Mellifont in Co Louth formally welcomed Brother Joe (Larry) Ryan (55) into their community.
Br Joseph, who has worked at Mellifont Abbey for a number of years, is originally from the village of Littleton near Thurles in Co Tipperary.
Before deciding to take his vows, he worked at John J Dwyers Steel Plant in Dundrum, Co Tipperary, for some years.
His mother Margaret Ryan attended yesterdays ordination, along with eight of his siblings.