Latin Mass Brings New Life to an Old Dublin Parish
Father Gerard Deighan is the pastor of St. Kevin’s Parish in trendy Portobello, Dublin, where the Latin Mass Chaplaincy for the Dublin Archdiocese has been established since 2007. In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, he conducts us through his beautiful church and discusses his thriving, young congregation.
Q. How old is the Church? Can you tell us a little about the parish history?
The building of St Kevin’s began in 1869, and the church was opened for worship in 1872. The work of decorating the interior went on for many decades, and I suppose it is still going on today!
Q. Why do you say that?
Our work nowadays, however, is about conserving the heritage of the past, and indeed restoring what has been damaged with time. We recently completed a very important project in the sanctuary area, which has brought that part of the church back to exactly how it looked almost 140 years ago.
In time we would like to extend this work of restoration to the entire church. But funds are limited!
Q. How long has the Latin Mass been celebrated at St. Kevin’s?
The traditional Latin Mass came to St Kevin’s — or should I say came back to St Kevin’s — in the autumn of 2007, following on Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
Q. Was this the first time in Dublin?
Ever since 1989 there had been a regular Sunday Mass in Dublin city, at various locations. When Summorum Pontificum came out, our Archbishop, Diarmuid Martin, decided to establish a chaplaincy dedicated to the traditional liturgy, with daily Mass, and full pastoral care of the faithful.
Q. Great! Why St Kevin’s?
St Kevin’s was considered to be a suitable church to base the chaplaincy in, since it was well located and had maintained most of its original interior, such as the pulpit, high altar, and altar rails. Also, the number of local parishioners had dwindled quite a bit, and it was felt that the chaplaincy would ensure the church building was better used into the future.
Q. Have you seen much growth attributable to the TLM?
Yes, there has been considerable growth. When the Latin Mass came to St Kevin’s there were about 200 at Sunday Mass; that number has now doubled to 400, though on some Sundays it can be more.
Q. Are they regulars?
We have what I would call a “floating” congregation. As well as the people who come every Sunday, there are those who come every second Sunday, or once a month, and so on. Otherwise they attend their home parish. Obviously it is not easy to have to travel a distance every week.
Q. Would you say they are ‘typical’ Mass-goers for Ireland?
What stands out about the congregation at the Latin Mass is the age profile. Visitors are surprised at how many young people there are, especially young men, a group you will not find in great numbers in most parishes.
Q. Anything else that’s ‘different’ about the EF Mass-goers?
I am also very impressed by how committed those young people are to their faith, and knowledgeable about it. It is a great privilege to minister to them.
Q. How would you characterize the demographics of the Latin Mass-goers?
I would like to emphasise how mixed the attendance is: young and old, male and female, lots of young families and children, all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds. In a word, it’s a very normal Catholic congregation.
Q. How are your local congregants reacting to this influx?
I am very happy that over the years more and more of the local parishioners are coming along. At the outset there was a certain resentment of the “outsiders” coming into the parish; but now I think everyone sees that the Latin Mass has brought new life and energy to St Kevin’s, as well as ensuring its financial viability.
Q. Are your Latin Mass-goers involved with the parish life?
Most of those who attend the Latin Mass are living at a distance, so it is not easy for them to get involved in parish life during the week.
At the same time, we now have several volunteers from the Latin Mass congregation who help right across the board in parish life: members of the finance committee, the St Vincent de Paul Society, the altar guild, church cleaning, and so forth.
Q. You mentioned that the TLM is an area experiencing significant growth in the Irish Church. Why do you think that might be?
I think young people are hungry for tradition. In a constantly-changing, what we might call “synthetic” world, they are looking for what has stood the test of time, for what is “organic”.
Q. Sounds like a bit of a generation gap!
Somehow or other, those who grew up with the traditional liturgy often didn’t appreciate it. They thought it was out-dated, and needed a make-over. Unfortunately, that make-over involved discarding many beautiful elements.
Q. What about the younger generation?
When young people experience the older liturgy, they can instinctively sense that there is something special about it. It is ancient, mysterious, prayerful, powerful. They may not understand in the normal sense all the words or gestures, but they understand at a deeper level. And then when they read up on things on the internet they come to a fuller appreciation.
Q. That’s quite an irony.
Strange as it may seem, it has been the internet, that most modern thing, which has introduced the youth to the traditional Mass! When I ask our young visitors how they found St Kevin’s, invariably the answer is: your website.
By the way, the website is: www.latinmassdublin.ie