Victoria, David, Patricia, Rev James and Patrick Eivers with Bishop Colm O'Reilly at Rev James' first mass in his home parish in Granard on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Shelley Corcoran
Longford's newest addition to the priesthood has said the greatest challenge to the Church is not impiety but rather a “culture of indifference”.
Granard native James Eivers' ordination into Dublin's Carmelite Order was celebrated in front of family and friends at St Mary's Church on Sunday.
Scores of parishioners from across the north Longford region turned out to welcome the son of Patrick and Patricia back to a place of worship which first spawned his path to spirituality.
Reflecting on the events of the past week, Fr James said the occasion was one which moved him immensely.
“It was wonderful to return home last Sunday to celebrate Mass in St. Mary's, Granard,” he said.
“The Church holds for me so many memories.
“For me, it is a place, where in part, faith was formed and nourished, perhaps not even knowing it at the time.
“In my homily on Sunday I mentioned that as a child I was never an altar server. I never sang in the choir and I probably spent more time daydreaming and counting the great wooden beams that hold up the roof the Church than listening to what the Parish Priest had to say in his Homily.
“But the providence of God is an extraordinary thing and with great pride in my heart I can say that this Church feels like home precisely because it is a place of relationship and encounter.”
And it's that semblance of feeling which Fr James believes the Church has to take stock of if it is to reach out to younger parishioners and arrest declining attendances.
He said much of that effort needs to focus on eatablishing a greater “personal” interaction with God.
“I think that's the great challenge to the Church at the moment - if there is a crisis in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life it is because there is a crisis in people's faith,” he said.
“In my experience to date, atheism is not the dominant challenge to ministry but rather a culture of indifference.
“I realise that for many of us the idea that the Church could be a place that we might call home is a very vague and distant concept.
“I think that is the great challenge to the Church at the moment - to create a place/space conducive to a personal encounter with with God.”