Catholic faith

Ongoing formation and education in the parish of Oughterard

The parish has a newly refurbished room for Catholic and adult education, the Rev Richard Kirwan conference room, situated in the parish offices. This conference room is available for all parish related activities only.

Rev Richard Kirwan was the first parish priest of Oughterard, who built the church. He was also the first president of Queens College, Galway, and he built the famous “Quad” building that serves as the main administrative hub of the national university. 

 

April 2023

A series of 5 articles to prepare for a meeting on Thursday 1st June 2023 with the parishes of Moycullen and Kilannin with bishop Michael Duignan DD.

Preparing for our future – 1 of 5

I am introducing a series of reflections on “what it means to be a catholic in modern Ireland” for the next few months. This is as a way to prepare for the much-needed changes to allow renewal for our parish and diocese, true renewal inspired by the Holy Spirit and in communion with the rest of the Irish church, to unfold. It will not be what you expect, as real and deep questions will have to be addressed.

One of my foundational life experiences was three years spent in the Zambian bush many years ago where I was the mission services manager. Besides the running of the mission services, I would keep close contact with the Irish Capuchins who were also present. They would go on mission visits around the vast areas of the parish to visit isolated villages eking out their lives unknown to most of humanity. At best they would have the celebration of the Eucharist just a couple of times in the year, which were of course the highlight of their communal lives. God was coming to visit them, seemingly forgotten, but never out of His sight and care. How did they keep their faith alive for the rest of the year, between infrequent visits from their stretched parish priest? Basic Christian Community. Leaders were trained and given a simple wage, very small but welcome, and they would organise and meet Sundays for a service of the Word and again midweek for learning about their faith. It was their lifeline. Surprisingly, these villages were doing better at living and passing on their Catholic faith than other villages who were much closer to the mission centre and could travel to weekly Sunday mass. Why was this so? Because if they did not do it, nobody would, and they would be the worse for it.

So, our first question to reflect upon, from a set of questions already posed to a large gathering from Glann, is the following: What is the purpose of the parish church and Glann/Collinamuck chapels? Why do we need 3 structures? We originally had 5! What do they symbolise? What and whom do they serve? This is not a question about upkeep and maintenance, not even of utility and purpose. The Church is the body of Christ, with Christ Jesus at its head and we are the members that make up the very complex body. We all have a part to play in this body. Do we honestly fulfil it? Where do we honestly lie on the scale of Helpful-Hopeless-Hinderance? We have not mentioned the shortage of priests, as the changes that are needed are much more about the lay-faithful and their willingness to fulfil their baptismal calling to live their faith in service to one another. Taking responsibility for many various ministries is one essential aspect. In your honest opinion, how do you do in taking responsibility? What score out of 10 would you give us as a parish?

When I arrived in Oughterard, I could not in good conscience celebrate mass without doing something about the state of the church. It was in a state of sacrilege-by-neglect, and visiting tradesmen told me it was the most neglected church they had ever seen still in everyday use. Thankfully, with just a small but faith-filled group of committed parishioners, the parish church was brought to its best appearance perhaps ever! It was the power of faith in action, it is a real power beyond compare. I did say time and again my first few years here in lovely Oughterard, not being sure if anyone heard or understood me, that we need to really do our building with living stones, that is people, not bricks and mortar. The state of the church was perhaps symptomatic of a deeper lack of care for the faith and local community, something which can be remedied if there is a real desire. COVID-19 and other real challenges can’t be used as an excuse I am afraid, it’s too easy. Do we, you and I, love our church enough to undergo the renewal it needs? I believe so, and I hope so. I wish to help you if you will let me.

There are 4 more questions to pose to you over the coming weeks, and they are even more “philosophical” or theological than the question posed today, “What is the purpose of the parish church and Glann/Collinamuck chapels?” Questionnaires will be distributed after Easter and your views will be brought to the attention of the bishop’s representative. God bless and keep you in His Love-Amen. Fr Michael

Preparing for our future – 2 of 5

I am introducing a series of reflections on “what it means to be a catholic in modern Ireland” for the next few weeks. Part 2 follows…

Can we learn from the past: what about our historical memory, and what can it teach us about how to navigate the current Irish parochial situation? During penal times, priests were hunted and had a bounty on their heads. Most people would be blessed to have the mass just once or twice per year and doing so put their lives at risk while traveling to remote mass rocks. The hedge schools gave what simple education was on offer, again to promote literacy and give boys and girls a chance of a better future. What I am trying to say is if we value something we will keep it alive, if we don’t then it will die.

I believe we have a short historical memory in Ireland at present and, in my opinion, it may be tainted blue and grey by a dismissive media. Many aspects of Irish life, judging by reports and interviews from national media providers, was rather miserable and drab in the past; there was no quality of life compared to today. The church controlled everything, and people had no freedom unless they emigrated. Let us be honest for a minute, life was difficult, and opportunities to better yourselves were scarce. There was never a glorious past, and modern Irish life provides some wonderful opportunities. This must gladly be acknowledged, but we are lacking much of what was taken for granted in past years. People visited each other, made their own entertainment, shared the little they had, had great belly laughs often about little, and knew they were loved by God, and loved Him with real devotion. They were humbler, and had a deeper sense of who they were, and were not, that the average adult of the 21st century. We can’t go back to the past nor should we, we live now, but we should not throw overboard so much of what made us Irish just to fit the current political correctness which has no metaphysical foundation but is just a collection of trends and opinions rudderless in dangerous waters.

What is so difficult for us now is that we are the second richest country in the world by GDP, skewered numbers I know but there is a lot of wealth out there, and a lot of people still struggling to get by. We can’t be the slave of two masters Our Lord told us rightly, so we need to choose. The choice is, to put it starkly, the choice between everything and passing temporality. Naked we come into the world, and we leave the same way. There is however a place for us in heaven if we accept the invitation and live by faith; heaven begins in mystery here and now and doesn’t end. It is what God wants, but is it what you want? You will need a faith community to help you, it is a communal journey. Catholic faith in not a personal faith journey but a journey together with your parish and diocese.

This can lead us to our second of 5 questions that are being posed to the parish, and anyone else willing to listen and ponder. What is the Catholic church’s mission? How do these 3 communities in one parish (Oughterard, Collinamuck & Glann) community fulfil it? The Sunday Eucharist is the high-point of the week, when we gather for the communal celebration of the Eucharist. However, if there is no priest to celebrate mass, how are we to be faithful in our calling. The easiest option would be to hope in a car and drive to where there is mass, or less desirable to “tune in” to mass online and commune from a distance. A service of the word could take place, reflections, prayers, other devotions could be had. I believe this is still a number of years away, but it is good to get thinking about lay participation in worship more.

The core objective of the Church, in an oversimplified statement, is to raise up a people fit to be Gods family, in love. The core baptismal promise that parents undertake is to train their children to love God and love their neighbour, according to the teaching and example of Christ Jesus. This is also what the parish undertakes for the community. From this seedbed, everything else grows and bears much fruit.

January 2023

The Continental Stage of Universal Synod 2021–2024 of the Irish Synodal Pathway
Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, Diocese of Clonfert can be found HERE

 

Please keep up with social media posts and newsletter announcements, as well as the parish cloud calendar, to see what will be available on future dates.

Fr Michael Connolly pp.