Spir­i­tual sus­te­nance on of­fer with re­tail ther­apy

The Irish Times - - Home News - GOR­DON DEE­GAN

Amid the pre-Christ­mas crowd at the Sky­court shop­ping cen­tre yesterday was a num­ber of men in black who were seek­ing to bring com­fort to the con­sumers of Shan­non, Co Clare.

This was the fourth year of the Mercy on the Mall ini­tia­tive, the brain­child of for­mer parish priest Fr Tom Ryan. It sees priests do­ing hour-long shifts talk­ing to parish­ioners and some­times hear­ing Con­fes­sions in the shop­ping cen­tre.

“This started in re­sponse to Pope Fran­cis chal­leng­ing us to go out into the mar­ket­place,” said Fr Ryan, who is now based in En­nis. “It has grasped the imag­i­na­tion and peo­ple en­gage with us.”

Fr Ryan said that over the past hour he had en­gaged with ev­ery­one from young peo­ple to se­nior cit­i­zens.

“We had our chat and Con­fes­sion and they got it off their chest – and these are peo­ple I wouldn’t have nor­mally con­nected with in the con­fes­sion box in the church, but I can here as there is an op­por­tu­nity to reach out.”

The event was opened by the Bishop of Kil­laloe Fin­tan Monahan.

Fa­mil­iar face

One of those who took ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity was Breege Hes­sion, who spoke to a fa­mil­iar face, Fr Tom Fitzpatrick, one of the 16 priests in­volved.

“I buried my hus­band, Thomas, six weeks ago. We were 58 years mar­ried,” she said. “Fr Tom called to the house af­ter, and I got com­fort speak­ing to him here to­day. Fr Tom is very re-as­sur­ing. If there is any­thing wrong, he said to pick up the phone and call him.”

Ms Hes­sion said: “I think it is a great idea and will maybe bring young peo­ple closer to the church and speak to a priest.

“There is a lot of young peo­ple who seem to have gone away from the church and it is quite healthy to bring them back again and have them say their prayers.”

Anne Dug­gan sat with Bodyke priest Fr David Car­roll, who had sta­tioned him­self out­side an In­som­nia cafe.

“I think it is fan­tas­tic. I just wanted to talk to him. It was peace­ful and I feel good af­ter it. He was a lovely priest. He had a nice smile on his face and I thought I would go over and chat to him.”

Catches

Speak­ing af­ter his hour-long shift, Fr Car­roll said he had a steady stream of peo­ple all the way through.

“One per­son said to me, ‘I’m glad I didn’t miss the Mercy on the Mall be­cause it is an im­por­tant part of the year to me,’ ” he

‘‘

One per­son said to me ‘I’m glad I didn’t miss the Mercy on the Mall be­cause it is an im­por­tant part of the year to me’

said. “The event catches peo­ple who you wouldn’t nor­mally get in a church.”

Fr Ryan said the ex­pe­ri­ence was a ful­fill­ing one for the priests in­volved.

“You get ful­fil­ment, sat­is­fac­tion and that it was worth­while. It en­cour­ages new ways of evan­ge­lis­ing and it is an outreach.”

Shan­non parish priest Fr Arnold Ros­ney said: “What is hap­pen­ing here is new, dy­namic and imag­i­na­tive. We tried it, it was a risk we took and it has worked.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: PRESS 22

Bishop of Kil­laloe Fin­tan Monahan speaks to Des McDon­ald dur­ing the ‘Mercy on the Mall’ event at the Sky­court Shop­ping Cen­tre in Shan­non.

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