NOT MANY priests ring church bells before saying Mass, but for Fr Adrian Egan, rector of the Redemptorists’ Order in Limerick, it is all in a day’s work.
And this Saturday afternoon from 1.45pm he will join with bell ringers from both side of the border in Ireland, and the UK, who will converge on Limerick for a full peal, concluding around 5pm.
A peal is the name given to a specific type of performance of bell change ringing, which will liven up the city as the people of Limerick begin their Christmas shopping in earnest.
The prolonged reverberating sound from the campanologists is to mark a year long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the Church of Mount St Alphonsus, dating from December 8, 1863.
There are two bell towers in Limerick. The eight bells at St Mary’s Church of Ireland Cathedral have been ringing for over 700 years. At Mount St Alphonsus Redemptorist Church, 10 bells have been rung since 1876.
As part of his Sunday bell ringing ritual Fr Egan, a native of Greystones, goes with his colleagues to St Mary’s Cathedral to help out there before heading back to the Redemptorists to ring the bells in his own church.
“I started four years ago when I became Rector as they were short of bell ringers and I said I would give it a go. I did not think it would be too difficult and did not realise what a skilful art bell ringing is. It took me about a year to get into it.”
He thinks nothing of bell ringing before Mass.
“The most difficult part, physically, is walking up the stairs. It is quite a climb, that is the most strenuous part of it,” he explained.
There is no problem with his ears ringing afterwards while saying Mass.
“The Bell tower is one of the quietest places to be – it is very quiet there.”
Fr Egan revealed this week that bell ringers from both churches have been helping each other as far back as the start of the century, when there was no talk of ecumenism.
When the Church of Ireland wanted to revive bell ringing they were helped by the ringers of the Redemptorists as a matter of course.
Every Monday night the bell ringers from the Redemptorists meet their Church of Ireland compatriots at St Mary’s Cathedral for practice. Then they meet up again on Sunday and help each other out at 11.15am and 12 o clock in the two different churches in the city.
“It’s quite dangerous as the bells are up to a ton weight. They are hanging on a pulley so when you pull the rope the bell falls over and then it has to be stopped before it gets to the top on the other side and pulled back, so there is a whole rhythm attached,” added Fr Egan.