Fr. Padraig Standun

Mayo priest writes about reaching a major milestone

by Fr. Padraig Standun

I AM 50 years a priest this month.

While there is a small sense of satisfaction in reaching this milestone, I have no sense at all of celebration.

It is not that I have not enjoyed my years as a priest. I have met some wonderful people in Inis Oirr, Inis Meáin, An Cheathrú Rua, Tourmakeady and Carna.

The way of life was worth it for that alone, but there should be more to it than that.

The failure and the disintegration of priesthood, not just in Ireland but throughout what we might call the old world, saddens me.

By the old world I mean Europe and the mainly English speaking world of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - the old world of privilege, power and colonialism for the most part.

The church and the priesthood are forging ahead and doing relatively well in many other areas, to the extent that you could say that the real Roman Catholic Church is now coloured, poor and vibrant.

I am delighted with that, but still mourn the loss of what I was brought up on – a priest in every parish and church area, a sense of community and stability that was there, even if everyone did not choose to avail of it.

Church scandals of the past 20 years or so have shown that the ‘good old days’ were far from being good for the many people who were abused, sexually, physically or verbally.

The old clerical monolith which was the same in Catholic parishes all over the globe gave scope and succour for the abuse of power, which manifested itself in everything from social control to abuse.

The hammering that the Roman Catholic Church has been getting in recent years in the national media about the Tuam babies, the Magdalen laundries, slow compensation for those wronged or abused, and much else, while sometimes over the top, has mainly been deserved.

Are we capable of learning from it? Are we questioning other attitudes such as the place of women in the church, the ordination of women, priestly celibacy, the mistreatment of people who are gay, lesbian or transgender, and other matters which have little to do with faith in God or in Jesus Christ?

If we are not, then we should be.

I am just about surviving as the date for priestly changes and retirements is postponed by a least a couple of months.

At another time that would not be a big deal, but not having had a holiday or any kind of break for more than two years is beginning to weigh heavily.

So what, you may say. Everyone is in the same Covid boat. But not everyone is old and grey and hoping to snatch a late-in-life rest many of my colleagues who passed away recently deserved but did not get.

The brighter side is that I will get to eat the apples from the trees I planted 11 years ago on arrival in Carna. May blossoms predict a bumper crop for both me and my successor.

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