Hello from Wexford!
We hope you all had a wonderful Easter. Lent felt quite long this year, but Holy Week at Clonard passed by in a flash! Brendan and Jena’s families came to visit, and we each spent the week after Easter in different ways; relaxing, recharging, traveling, and I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on what it means to serve in parish ministry.
It is hardly glamorous, parish ministry, and often quite draining; not just in Ireland, but for all of those who work in parishes back in the United States as well. Things often don’t work out the way you want or expect them to, and you have to learn to be radically flexible, gracious, and open to new possibilities. There are difficult personalities to endure, like there are in every field, and you may have unfortunately negative encounters with people who, on the surface, appear quite devout. You may even inadvertently find yourself considered difficult, as you learn the ropes of self-giving, sacrifice, and community life. You begin to understand that passion and optimism are essential, but so, too, is a new understanding of duty; to show up, day in and day out, no matter the difficulty, regardless of the weather, personal disposition, etc. You encounter the odd, the awkward, the lonely, the suffering (and maybe feel like that yourself sometimes!). Spiritually, there are times when you may feel completely drained, even empty, despite working in a church day after day. Turning the other cheek was never meant to be easy, and you begin to realize the hard truths of the gospel.
And yet, there are many beautiful, salvific moments in this line of work, if you make yourself receptive to them. Moments like when you see long lines of people waiting to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness during parish reconciliation services, or when the church that is half-full on weekends suddenly fills to the brim for the funeral of a beloved figure in the parish community. Moments like the gentle smiles, twinkling eyes, and surprisingly wicked humor of grandmothers and religious sisters around the tea table, or the unfettered joy and enthusiasm of young children preparing for their First Holy Communion, or the soft, warm sunlight streaming through the stained glass of the Annunciation window, illuminating Clonard’s Day Chapel.
People come to the Church for a host of different reasons; some for worship and adoration, but most come for comfort and peace. While Mass attendance in Ireland is declining, as it is in many places in the West, we cannot let ourselves get discouraged; we must focus on those who do show up, day after day, for their stories and their faith can teach us more than we ever thought possible. Working in parish ministry, through which a total outpouring of self is required, can also lead us to comfort and peace, if we focus on the goodness and beauty of our work, and of those who surround us each day.
Now, we enter the final months of our year in Ireland–and it is a true race to the finish line, as we have Confirmations, First Communions, and the upcoming Notre Dame Folk Choir tour to Ireland before we go home to the States! We are coordinating a huge concert with the Notre Dame Folk Choir and local singers and school children at the National Opera House here in Wexford on Friday, May 27th at 7:30pm, and if you’re in the area we would love for you to join us! Here is the link to the website for more information, and for booking tickets: http://www.nationaloperahouse.ie/whats-on/show/the-faith-of-ireland-the-faith-of-the-world
Thanks so much for keeping up with us, and stay tuned for an update from Dublin next week!