A PRIEST has urged hundreds of young people “not to be disappointed or disheartened” if Pope Francis does not respond to their tweets pleading to allow him to stay in Limerick.
Over 1,400 people signed an online petition to keep Fr Chris O’Donnell, 43, of the young ministry, in Limerick, as he is due to be relocated to Dublin for a year.
Hundreds of young people also tweeted the Pope via his official Twitter account, @pontifex, under the hashtag #keepourhero.
They urged the Pope to allow Fr O’Donnell, who has been described as a “class act”, “an absolute legend” and “the cool priest” to remain in Limerick, where he has been based for nearly 12 years.
“I don’t want them to think that just because I’m still being moved, or if they don’t hear back from the Pope, what they have done hasn’t made a difference. It has still made a massive difference.
“It has made people aware that young people have a voice within the Church, that they have a connection within the Church, they feel part of what we do in Limerick, and it shows that the programmes we offer [to young people] are worth keeping.
“I don’t want them to be disappointed, but if the Pope tweets them back that would be brilliant. It would be lovely, in some shape or form, whoever manages his account, if somehow he could acknowledge it.
“A campaign, in my opinion, shouldn’t always be judged on getting the end result. They have done a lot of good in what they have done already. It has also brought them together, and created an awareness in Limerick and in the Church at large that young people matter and have faith, which is very affirming.”
In a YouTube video about the campaign, Darragh Kirwan, of one Fr O’Donnell’s young followers, said: “Chris is one of the backbones of the youth ministry. He is popular not just because he is the cool priest but because he is someone we can all go to.”
Fr O’Donnell, who has also been described by many as “Fr Trendy”, told the Limerick Leader: “Those who know me know that there is nothing trendy about me – far from it. I am who I am and I can’t help how it’s interpreted. I steer clear of all that, because I’ll always be who I am, and whatever is prescribed to me I won’t be fishing or looking for it.”
Bishop of Limerick, Dr Brendan Leahy said: “Fr Chris is a remarkable priest.
“Those who know Fr Chris know that he is a very sensitive person, with a lovely sense of humour. Many, many people have been touched – not just young people. Fr Chris has had a marvellous outreach to older people, people in difficulties, people who are sick, people who are in hospital, people who are getting married.”
Addressing his temporary relocation to Dublin, Fr O’Donnell said “the life of a priest is such that this is what we have signed up to.
"I’d like to think that if the Bishop asked me in the morning to go to Kenya, I’d trust his wisdom in that and I’d hope that I’d respond generously and openly.”