Irish ‘minority Church’ will grow if it can make disciples

Irish ‘minority Church’ will grow if it can make disciples Bishop Phonsie Cullinan

The future of the Catholic faith in Ireland depends on whether we can create disciples, rather than just forming passive Mass-goers, Waterford and Lismore’s bishop has said.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic about how the Church is now a “minority” in Ireland, Bishop Phonsie Cullinan said “mediocrity” or “lukewarmness” will not suffice in spreading the Faith, noting that the Irish Church hasn’t “been great in actually making disciples” and that this needs to change.

The bishop’s comments come after his attendance earlier this month at SEEK – a large Catholic conference in Indianapolis which draws together thousands of young people from around the world to discuss the Faith and draw closer to Christ. Describing the January 3-7 event as “electric” Dr Cullinan said it was “wonderful” to see 17,000 young people together celebrating their Faith, especially given that “young people don’t go to something unless they want to”.


In contrast to the “missionary zeal” present there, Bishop Cullinan said that the Faith is less cohesive in Ireland, pointing to the fact that Catholics couldn’t even agree on the “black and white” issue of abortion when voting on the removal of the Eighth Amendment in May last year.

“That alone gives us an assessment of the temperature of the Faith in Ireland,” he said.

Despite these setbacks, Bishop Cullinan said that although the Irish Church is smaller than it has been, it is also stronger and that this should give us resolve and motivation to “change the world”. He added that Pope Francis calls all of us to become missionary disciples where “intentional one-by-one spiritual multiplication” can occur, allowing the Faith to flourish.

“It’s about really being fired up with Jesus, we’ve got to be missionaries – that’s the dream of Francis,” he said.