Struggling Catholic Church needs charm offensive to win some of lost flock back

In an exciting week for Creggs, our man Frank touches on rugby, wonders if the Catholic Church could do more to try and tempt some of its ‘lost flock’ back…and reveals some of Terry Leyden’s party pieces!

It’s Friday morning as I write – Paddy’s Day – and after the celebratory full Irish, I spend some time rooting through the hot press looking for something green to wear to Mass. After a long search I find an old jumper that looked dark green to me, but for some reason looked blue to everyone else that saw it.

I wore it anyway, and headed off to our local Catholic Church, which was, at most, one-third full. After Fr Michael O’Brien, who is back in Ireland after more than half a century ministering in Mississippi, conducted the service, my mind drifted back to St Patrick’s Day Masses way back when I was a young lad.

I could see my mother and father, both proudly wearing shamrock and badges, ushering all of us out of the house so we would be on time for the early Mass, which at that time was at 9 am. For both of them, March 17th was such an important day.

Some years later, I could see myself heading off to a packed church resplendent in the green suit that the late Anto Pettit had assured me had only arrived in from Paris the day before – and was exclusive to me – so it was with great surprise that I’d found about twenty more identical, exclusive Paris green suits amongst the large crowd at the back of the church!

My then-girlfriend, and now my wife of 42 years, was so impressed that she set a match to my exclusive Parisian suit, and to a Courtelle (another exclusive fashion item from Paris that literally looked like a belly band) – thankfully both proved to be extremely resistant to fire.

Anyway, that would have been the end of my deliberations on the religious aspect of our big day if I hadn’t spoken to a friend of mine in Dublin on Sunday afternoon, an individual who’d been to Mass that morning in a city centre church. In an area with thousands of residents, he estimated there were only between 50 and 60 people in attendance. He made the point that if a business was losing customers at the same rate as the church obviously is, it would surely launch a charm offensive to try and get some of those customers back!

We all know about the various scandals that have caused untold harm to the church, and indeed to lots of its followers, but we are also well aware that there usually are only a few bad apples in the barrel, so why an organisation that is worth at least €4 billion in Ireland doesn’t make a huge attempt to win back some of the lost flock baffles me.

Obviously the priest population is ageing at an alarming rate, so there needs to be a complete rethink on the matter of both married priests and female ordinations. If radical change was to take place, maybe there would be enough evangelists to, as in the early days of the church, ‘take to the highways and the byways’ to try to win back the people.

In my view, the reality is that a lot of those who have drifted away are still looking for something, and could be tempted back to a really dynamic and caring church.

Grand Slams, and a big game locally

Given the weekend that was in it, I just have to mention (despite promising a female reader recently that I would reduce my sports’ commentary) the two rugby Grand Slams that Ireland won last weekend.

The senior team, despite not being at their best, did enough to see off a committed, pumped up, but limited English team on Saturday afternoon. And in an almost carbon copy, the U-20s did the same thing to the same opposition on Sunday.

Speaking to supporters who were in the Aviva on Saturday, they said they never experienced an atmosphere like the one after the game. We could feel it at home on the couch, but apparently at the venue it was simply electric.

As a national team, we are in a great place going into the World Cup later in the year, but of course anything can happen when we get to France. However, we can worry about that when it happens. As of now, we can celebrate our fourth Grand Slam, our first ever won at home – and better still to have seen off the ‘Auld Enemy’ to win it!

Before I leave rugby, don’t forget that our lads, Creggs, are playing Westport in the Connacht Junior Cup Final this Sunday in the Galway Sportsground at 3.30 pm. After a 30-year wait, it would be the icing on the cake if we could win it.

We need all the support we can get, so if you can do so, please make it to Galway and help Brian Diffley and his team to bring the greatest cup of them all back to Creggs. I can’t wait!

Big Bingo reminder!

Don’t forget the Big Bingo Night that’s taking place this Friday, March 24th, in the National School Hall, Creggs at 8 pm. Mike Grogan’s Arctic Dog Sled Challenge for Autism Assistance Dogs will benefit from some of the proceeds, as will the school itself (which is one of the most progressive schools anywhere).

Double books are €15, single books are €10, and flyers are €2. There will be a €500 jackpot, loads of other prizes, a raffle for lots of great stuff, a cuppa, and maybe even a bun or two. I have to admit it’s great craic. You could be going home a lot better off than when you came in!

And finally…

On St Patrick’s Day, in the evening time, we headed over the road to Castlecoote Lodge, where young Kenneth McCormack was providing the large crowd with great musical entertainment.

Amongst others, the proprietor himself, Terry Leyden, brought the house down with two great Paddy’s Day tunes – On the One Road and A Nation Once Again.

As I said to him, no one ever knew better than Terry what the people wanted to hear (he also told me that the Irish Mirror was due to do a feature on the pub on Monday, which they indeed did – you can check it out online).

Anyway, we then headed back to Mikeen’s to wrap it up. The craic was great there as well. As we hit the leaba that night, all that was missing for me was the club football and hurling finals. I still think they should be played on Paddy’s Day, even though I understand why they aren’t.