Celebrating 125 years of the Irish Catholic newspaper, a conference was held at All Hallows College in Dublin entitled Horizon of Hope. I have only been there once or twice before. My uncle the late Fr Harry Smyth CM was a member of the Vincentian order and occasionally stayed there when visiting Dublin.
He was one of the 6000 Irish missionaries trained there who have been sent out into various countries over the past 170 years of the College. But now according to Fr Pat McDevitt CM, President of the College, said a different kind of missionary was needed for the world today: the students come from wide variety of communities.
One common interest among the “new” missionaries was concern for the needs of the poor, Fr McDevitt told the opening of #IC125. He was appointed to All Hallows in November 2001 when he was Associate Professor of Education at de Paul University in Chicago, his place of birth in the United States. The College is now part of Dublin City University and recently launched a plan to build its reputation as a centre of excellence for innovative teaching & learning, community-based service learning, transnationality and applied/community-based research.
Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown was introduced by the Editor of the Irish Catholic, Michael Kelly. He told the conference he saw signs of hope in Ireland during visits to dioceses: shoots of new life springing up. One of the signs of new hope is the Irish Catholic newspaper, the principal voice of Catholics in the print media, according to Archbishop Brown and the perfect answer to clericalism. Columnist John Waters then spoke. He said Catholicism had nourished Irish culture for 1500 years. In his address he also made the point that it was the absence of questions that was most terrifying: the questions that were being eliminated from our culture. A ‘benign tolerance’ towards Catholicism is the best you will get in the present day mainstream media, he said.
Breda O’Brien spoke about “Catholic spirituality — our best hope”. Despair is not an option a Christian can afford to indulge in”, she said. She said the huge sense of the sacred in our religion eg Eucharist/Holy Communion had been lost, a point also raised by an audience member. Sarah Carey’s presentation was about marketing the Mass. ESRI Mass attendance survey: 42% of Catholics weekly, mainly over 65s (70%).
Former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan spoke very strongly on the proposed change to Irish law on abortion in cases where a threat of suicide existed. For those who wish to see her comments, I have published her script in a later blog. Other contributors to the conference included writer, author and playwright Mary Kenny, David Quinn of the Iona Institute and a “Youth Perspective” delivered by Maura Garrihy who went on to participate in the Vigil for Life national rally and the Meath footballer Joe Sheridan. The conference was brought to a close with a panel discussion, chaired by Eileen Dunne, newscaster and presenter of “The God Slot” on RTÉ Radio 1.