Culture Minister Madigan steps in to 'say Mass' as priest fails to show
A minister who was at the forefront of the campaign to legalise abortion stepped up to 'say Mass' in her local parish over the weekend after a priest failed to show.
Culture Minister Josepha Madigan was scheduled to give a reading at her regular Saturday evening Mass, but ended up taking a more central role, the Herald can reveal.
The Dublin Rathdown TD offered to lead prayers in front of worshippers at the Church of St Therese in Mount Merrion.
It is understood Ms Madigan addressed the congregation from the altar, performing most elements of a normal Mass.
She did not read the Gospel or perform the consecration of the bread and wine, as these can only be carried out by a priest.
However, there was some pre-blessed bread in the church, meaning Mass-goers were able to receive communion.
When contacted yesterday, Ms Madigan said it's a "sad reflection of the times we live in that there are no priests available to say Saturday evening Mass in one of the busiest parishes in Dublin".
"A lack of ordinations and the age profile of priests mean a shortage is inevitable. It's not just here, I know this is an issue also for many parishes across the country," she said.
Local priest Fr Brian O'Reilly confirmed that he was scheduled to be away and a replacement cleric did not materialise.
Ms Madigan has previously spoken about how her faith is "extremely important".
She co-ordinated Fine Gael's Yes campaign during the recent referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment, describing the outright ban on abortion as "barbaric".
The first-time TD questioned people who felt it wasn't possible to be a member of the Catholic Church and back repeal.
Her unusual role at Mass came as the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Denis Nulty, said that lay women and men will have to take a more active role in parish life.
Speaking in Knock to mark the annual pilgrimage of the Saint Joseph's Young Priests Society, Bishop Nulty said: "The Church is no longer the dominant force it once was in Irish life and that is a good thing.
"A priest today works collaboratively with lay women and men, young and old, at the coalface of parish life."
He said the need to encourage young men into the priesthood was "never greater".
"Ireland has culturally changed hugely in recent decades, seismically in the past couple of years," he added.
"A young man who shows the promise of a vocation needs more encouragement than ever.
"Parents will understandably worry about loneliness; friends will have legitimate concerns around celibacy, relationships, life.
"Discerning a vocation is now firmly counter-cultural," he added.