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Grassroots Church Unity

It used to be an anguished cry of Protestants in Ireland that the Roman Catholic Church’s policy on mixed marriages was “bleeding other churches dry.” The policy required that couples should raise their children as Catholics, and that weddings conducted in Protestant churches should soon be followed by a nuptial Mass celebrated by the local priest.

The policy has produced unexpected consequences: according to Church of Ireland estimates, one in four families in the Republic of Ireland includes at least one Protestant grandparent. This factor is quietly changing the tone of church relations. There are other signs that rivers of resentment are running clean after a century of independence in the Republic of Ireland.

One recent example is a decision of the rector and church council of St. Maeldoid’s (Church of Ireland) at Muckno, Castleblayney, to share a lovely, gothic-style church building with nearby St. Mary’s (Roman Catholic), which has closed its building for a year of essential repairs. Mucklo is located in County Monaghan in the border region, but lies mostly in the Irish Republic.

The Rev. Pat McHugh and his parishioners at St. Mary’s readily accepted the arrangement, and it was approved by the Rt. Rev. John McDowell, Bishop of Clogher.

Anglican services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Sundays, with a Mass following at 11:45. The church will be open for Mass from Monday to Thursday.

“I am absolutely delighted that we can be of assistance to our brothers and sisters in Christ at St. Mary’s by offering St. Maeldoid’s Church as a place of worship,” said the Rev. Neal Phair, rector of St. Maeldoid’s. “We celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity together, and it is wonderful that we can further the unity we share by worshiping under the same roof for the coming year.”

Fr. McHugh of St Mary’s has spoken of the relations between his parish and its Church of Ireland neighbors, as “yet another example of the exceptional goodwill and wholesome spirit of Christian solidarity which we experience with our local community.”

John Martin


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