The Irish Times – Wednesday, April 11, 2012Anna Keegan is 26 and as a practising Catholic feels lucky to have a community around her
PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent
CENSUS STORIES: The practising Catholic
DEBATE HAS been intense on the Association of Catholic Priests’ (ACP) website since news emerged last week that Redemptorist priests Fr Tony Flannery and Fr Gerard Moloney had been silenced by the Vatican because of their liberal views.
One of the most striking contributions there is from Ánnraoi Ó Diothaigh (81). Upset at what Rome has done, he wrote an open letter to Pope Benedict last Saturday and placed it on the ACP website.
Having made his protest he continued: “Last night (Good Friday) I attended the Stations of the Cross in St Patrick’s Church in Monkstown in Dublin. The attendance was poor – I estimated 75 parishioners turned up . . . What was even more sad was the fact that fewer than 10 of those 75 parishioners were under the age of 30.
“Young people have turned away from the church and it is unlikely they will ever return.”
Mr Ó Diothaigh’s view of the Irish Catholic Church would not be unusual. In Dublin, weekly Mass attendance is at an average 14 per cent, while it is 2 and 3 per cent in some working-class parishes. Figures for rural Ireland are better but there too it is older people in the main who go to Mass.
What are we to make of this? Especially when the census results published last month showed that more now describe themselves as Catholic in Ireland than in 2006. More than 84 per cent of people in the Republic, or 3.86 million, described themselves as Roman Catholic on census night last year. It represented an increase of 179,889, or 4.9 per cent, on the 2006 figure.
Anna Keegan is 26 and lives in Dún Laoghaire. Like Ánnraoi Ó Diothaigh she is a practising Catholic. She is one of those young people who has not turned away from the church.
Quite the opposite. She just feels “lucky to have a community around me. For me it is very joyful, very positive. They are always there for me and I am for them.”
Her upbringing was conventionally Catholic: Mass on Sundays, that sort of thing. She gave it little thought.
“I admit I was just about going [to Mass], until I was 17, I really didn’t get into the God thing.”
Then, in July 2002, she was persuaded to attend World Youth Day in Toronto. There she had what she describes as “a faith experience. I found what it was to be Catholic. I found a group the same age as myself who were still into faith, who were struggling with it and still believing.”
She “came home with new questions . . . why Mass? What’s it all about, really? It can be difficult being a Catholic.”
How difficult? Does she encounter hostility from other young people?
No. Her friends “are really brilliant. Some practise, some don’t. Some have a different faith. They don’t mind. So at a party on a Saturday when I say I have to go home to get up for Mass in the morning, it doesn’t really matter. It can be a great conversation piece sitting in the pub.”
It can also lead to “talk about their faith. There are very few [of her friends] with no faith in anything. They believe there is something out there but are not quite sure what it is. They are still interested.”
Some struggled with faith. They might not attend Mass but they still lit candles. Besides, she wouldn’t judge them. “The Mass is really important to me but ours is a prodigal church. Everyone is welcomed back,” she said.
In general she found people “very respectful and understanding” when it came to her beliefs and religious practice.
“I never felt I couldn’t say I was a Catholic,” she said. Then she is “a strong person. I can fight my corner,” she said.
She remembered a walk on the East Pier in Dún Laoghaire last November, in preparation for the Eucharistic Congress next June, with candles and stations on the way for prayers. People stopped to look but no one said anything.
On her return from Toronto she did applied social studies at NUI Maynooth, travelled a bit and then became involved locally with community and youth work, which she “really enjoyed”. Eventually she realised she “could do this as a job”, which was how she came to work for Catholic Youth Care, a major provider of youth services in the Dublin archdiocese.
Where church controversies over contraception, celibacy and/or women priests were concerned, she didn’t know what to think. “At this stage of my faith life I don’t really know, to be honest. I’m just trying to love everyone as much as I can. I don’t think I can answer those questions.”
She tries “to focus more on faith and the gospel”.
Her experience of the church has been “really positive. I know it has not been everyone’s experience and there have been so many forms of church over the last 2,000 years. But one thing that has not changed is the gospel.”
THIS IS IRELAND
WHAT IT SAID ABOUT RELIGION
84% of people in the Republic, or 3.86 million, described themselves as Roman Catholic.
4.9% The percentage increase of those describing themselves as Catholics between 2006 and 2011.
269,800 people said they had no religion.
Leave a comment
- a catholic prayer
- belief of catholics
- bible and catholic
- bible of the catholic church
- catechism of catholic
- catechism of catholic church
- catechism of the catholic
- catechism of the catholic church
- catholic beliefs
- catholic bible study
- catholic books
- catholic christmas cards
- catholic church
- catholic church bible
- catholic church catechism
- catholic church history
- catholic church online
- catholic doctrine
- catholic faith
- catholic first communion
- catholic guide
- catholic hymns
- catholic information
- catholic mass
- catholic missal
- catholic news
- catholic prayer book
- catholic prayers
- catholic source
- catholic sources
- catholic theology
- catholic topics
- catholics and the bible
- confirmation gifts
- doctrine catholic
- holy cards
- holy spirit catholic
- liturgical calendar
- prayers for children
- prayers for the catholic church
- resources catholic
- roman catholic doctrine
- roman catholic faith
- roman catholic teaching
- roman missal
- spiritual catholic
- st charles borromeo
- st francis de sales
- st john the evangelist
- st rose of lima
- sunday homilies
- the catechism of the catholic church
- the catholic catechism
- the catholic prayer
- the catholic saints
- the roman catholic faith