In this week’s blog, Fr. Paddy reflects on reaching the milestone of the tenth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 4 July 2011.

Recently I arrived at a milestone in my priesthood. Ten years ordained. Years where I have grown, matured and experienced at a personal level, deep fulfilment and happiness in my life ministering ‘The Good News’ of Jesus Christ.  Years, where I have felt wonderful enthusiasm and consolation from the Lords abundance and goodness. My personal life has also changed.  The loss of my mother and father, and brother has given to me a sense of empathy and understanding with those who carry the crosses of sickness, bereavement and vulnerability.  I find it most humbling and very encouraging to fully subscribe to the wisdom, “the more we give, the more we receive from the Lord”. This is true, regarding the kindness and love received from so many people especially over the past five years in Bagenalstown Parish, Carlow.

Throughout my ten years as a priest, scandal has become the all too familiar norm within the Irish Catholic Institutional Church. This Church, is bruised by its horrific history regarding Clerical Child Sexual Abuse. The Ferns, Ryan and Murphy Reports highlights to me, the fundamental need for reform and renewal at all levels within the Catholic Church. My hope that the recent Apostolic Visitation, in response to Pope Benedict’s Pastoral Letter, to the members of the Irish Catholic Church; will be a real catalyst for such renewal.  However, with the snail pace of movement from Rome, I hold my breath.

I am, what I consider, ‘a dying breed’.  Still, the youngest the priest in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. I also am very conscious of how at a Diocesan level change will occur over the coming years. Simply because of the dwindling numbers of clergy. I don’t fear such change but regret that lay leadership and participation only seems to be fully embraced when priests are not around.  That’s a clerical problem. Our lay, vibrant and dynamic local church is a place that is life-giving, enthusiastic and faith filled.

Our local church is both valued and necessary. Community is the essence of what our church is all about. One of the important benefits from recent reports, regarding scandals in the church, is that it makes us ask the question, ‘What is the church all about?’. I suggest, now is the time to embrace and be inspired from its radical beginning. Take off the layers of clericalism, power and bureaucracy; we have a most inspiring heartbeat. The life of Jesus and spirit of the Gospel, has never been as necessary in a time when so many, “hunger and thirst for what is right”. A church on its knees, humble, enthusiastic in solidarity with the bruised and broken is a model that will always be relevant.

For the Priesthood to remain alive in our community, the Church must listen to the voice of the Spirit. It will be a sad day if no Sunday Masses will be celebrated simply because no priest is present in a parish, even when committed men and women may be willing to partake in such a ministry.

I don’t believe that the Jesus movement ever imagined our church should be a cosy, holy, middle-class club.  Storms and mountains, crosses and persecution are major themes throughout the New Testament. Our primary formator is the Holy Spirit. A Spirit that anoints us all every day with the courage and resilience, hope and enthusiasm to begin again.

May the Spirit of God, loving and free continue to flow through each one of us.