Members of the Archconfraternity in Limerick at their last Mass, Tony Fitzsimons, Brian O'Brien, Sean O'Brien, Martin Reddan, Tommy Lynch, Dick O'Connor, Christy Venner, John Fitzgerald and Mike Doyle
MEMBERS of a Catholic association solely for men have said they are “settling in fine with women”, after their exclusive men’s Mass was axed earlier this year.
The Archconfraternity of the Redemptorist Order in Limerick, which has been in existence for 150 years, had for 50 years enjoyed a men’s only Mass.
Several members of the Archconfraternity strongly objected to the move, with Tim McGrath, from Corbally, claiming its members felt as if they had been “relegated to the second division, to shared Mass status”.
But this week, after they worshiped alongside the fairer sex in the first conjoined Mass after a break over the summer, Mr McGrath said: “We have not been demoted, nor promoted. We have been simply shifted a bit.
“The format has changed. The fact that it’s a mix now didn’t make the slightest difference to the procedure.
“The men who had objected and said they wouldn’t come to the joint Mass, did come back, which was encouraging. It’s going to work out all right, I think.”
He said he did “most certainly not mean any disrespect to women, or offend anyone, or suggest the Archconfraternity is in any way chauvinistic” by his earlier remarks, which he admitted were perhaps “a bit strong.”
“We just thought it [the Archconfraternity Mass] would die a natural death, but it was a euthanasia in the end,” he told the Limerick Leader.
“We haven’t died out, and we haven’t gone away. The format has simply changed, and we would still encourage young and not-so-young men to join the Confraternity.”
Mr McGrath said any man who wishes to join can simply approach the secretary of the Church or join the 7.15pm Mass on Monday night.
There are no other conditions or inauguration rituals required to become a member. “Freemasons we are not,” he said, with a laugh.
Fr Seamus Enright, rector of the Redemptorists at Mount St Alphonsus in the city, said he felt the “transition went well”, while recognising that it was a dramatic change for some life-long members of what could be viewed as “the religious version of the men’s shed movement.”
The Confraternity Mass in recent times only drew in the region of 60 men – with the youngest aged 65 – down from several thousand each night at its religious zenith.
Fr Enright pointed out that a women’s Confraternity had previously existed, “but died a long time ago, well before my time.”
“It was never as big as the men’s and just disbanded many decades ago,” said Fr Enright.
For 150 years, the Archconfraternity held a weekly meeting, which in the past half century “morphed into Mass.”
Among the Archconfraternity faithful, Joe Kelly, from Richmond Park in Corbally, earlier said he felt “rather nostalgic and a bit lonesome, because this is the end of a wonderful era” as the last men’s Mass was brought to a close.
“It was like an institution really; we’ll never see the likes of it again,” he said.