AMID some clerical changes within the diocese, Father Robert McNamara will be replacing Reverend Conor Cunningham as Parish Priest in Lisdoonvarna, while the latter takes a sabbatical until 2022.
Father Robert will be travelling from Craughwell parish in Galway, where he served as administrator, but is a familiar face to many in Lisdoonvarna as he has often held service in Reverend Cunningham’s stead, when needed, over the years.
Before his role as administrator he also served in the Regional Hospital Galway as a chaplain, and even earlier in his career he completed a few years working in the Philippines as well.
Father Robert said, “I am honoured and delighted to be appointed Parish Priest in Lisdoonvarna, and I never thought I would get the position. The people there are so nice, and it is such a lovely place.”
Father Robert challenged the popular perception that congregations are ageing and that less young people are attending Mass, insisting that he has always seen a good mix of age groups before him from the altar.
Father Robert continued that he believes most people are motivated by goodness, and if one looks for that quality alongside love and decency, whether they attribute it to God or not, they are showing characteristics valuable to the Christian community; making labels unimportant.
When discussing the modern Catholic Church in Ireland and how it exists alongside the generally liberal public and media, Father Robert emphasised that the faith has always been about a person, and not someone special from history but rather someone alive and effective, in Jesus Christ.
He added: “I don’t think of a changing trend as a bother or a threat. I’ve noticed, if you bear in the mind the fallout of the clerical sex abuse scandals over the years, horrible as they were and with how badly they were dealt with, that the Irish people have a wonderful ability to distinguish between their local priest and the institution.”
He also considers himself blessed that although he has had frank and honest discussions about such topics from a place of mutual respect with others, he has never been discriminated against or experienced animosity because of the foul deeds of others in the Church.
Father Robert continued that although there might be various divisions in Ireland the greater world today, he has faith that once people put effort into wanting to understand each other, and present themselves as sincere, they can always find common ground together.
Father Robert admitted that he had hoped the pandemic might bring some back towards the Church and to God, but brought up a quote said during the 1960s by one Father Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, which he called prophetic regarding the role of the Catholic Church in the modern era.
“The Church of the future will be the “mustard seed” Church; it will be poorer, it will be smaller, but it will be a lot holier. You will be a member by conviction rather than convention.”
by Conor Clohessy