Young Catholic immigrants coming from countries where there is more active lay participation in parishes have a vital role in shaping a renewed Church here, missionaries have said.
Sr Kathleen McGarvey of the Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Apostles told The Irish Catholic that she is confident that Catholics from abroad who are making their homes here will have a positive influence on their peers.
She predicted that they will help “transform” the Church in Ireland by helping young people who “have not had an opportunity to know God and to grow in faith”, she said.
“For a lot of Irish young people, what will be their interaction with the Church? It will be from maybe a young Nigerian Catholic who has moved into their neighbourhood. They’re playing football and see him making the sign of the cross and ask him why.
“Maybe they [also] have a positive story to tell about an Irish missionary they knew,” Sr McGarvey said speaking ahead of this weekend’s celebration of Mission Sunday in parishes across the country.
She also warned that Irish Catholics cannot see importing priests from abroad as a panacea for the vocations crisis. “I don’t think that would be the answer that the Lord is calling us to – it’s not continued clericalism.
“We want a new Church, to be open to the Spirit, where we are sharing together not only clergy, religious, laity, but people of different cultures and different backgrounds, coming here as Church and being that universal face, I think it’s important,” she said on the role of lay Catholics.
Fr Michael O’Sullivan M. Afr., Director of Missio Ireland, said there are many Catholics from migrant communities working in Ireland who are extremely active in the Church and are “proud” both of the work of Irish missionaries in their home countries and of their Catholic Faith.
“I think everywhere we go, in India, in Africa many Catholics but also many Muslims are proud to say that they have received an education which was founded by a religious congregation, and that it has really been part of who they are,” Fr O’Sullivan said.
“If we talk about the Filipino community in Ireland today we know how active they are in the Church, and the Indian community, how active they are in our parishes and how caring and how Christian they are in their service…I think not only religious, but there are many laypeople that are coming that live Christian lives and are transforming the new Ireland that we’re living in today.”
Fr O’Sullivan and Sr McGarvey were speaking at the rebranding of the Pope’s official charity for overseas mission ‘Missio Ireland’, formerly known as World Missions Ireland, in Dublin on Monday.