Pilgrims' progress: voices at the congress


“I STARTED my year with a visit to Skelligs, then I went to the Holy Land, I’m here now for the week, and I’m doing the Camino next month.

“I’ll go back to the Holy Land again before the year is over. I was a lapsed Catholic in my late 20s and came back to the faith. It was loneliness brought me back. I was living on my own in Cork and Sundays were very long when you didn’t go to Mass. I have a very strong faith now.” - John Gibson from Cork city

“My mother came to the congress in 1932 with her sister. Her sister was living in New Jersey at the time, and she came over specially.

“I wanted to come because she came, and it doesn’t happen too often that we have the congress. If it’s in another 70 years we won’t be around to see it but maybe our grandchildren will go to it because we’re here now. We’d like to think so, anyway.” - Betty Reidy from Galway, attending with her friend Mary Murray

“It’s my first time in Ireland and I figured it was a great way to start the experience.

“I’m very active in a number of ways with my faith. I work with Catholics returning to their faith, and coming to the congress seemed like a good thing to do to strengthen my faith and learn more.” - William Thurin from California, travelling with two friends

“I initially wasn’t in favour of the congress at all. When it was first announced it was going to be in Ireland we were still awaiting the results of the Ryan and Murphy reports. I didn’t think it was right timing. I still don’t think the timing is right but I’m open to the renewal of the church.

“The church by and large has managed to make Jesus Christ alien to young people. As a church we need to find ways to connect with young people and maybe this will help.” - Fr David Halpin, from Maynooth, Co Kildare

“I wanted to join in the whole international element of the congress.

“Coming here is about focusing on the Eucharist. I’ve come to receive nourishment. I can only give what I have, so I need nourishment.” - Fr Damian Bresnahan from Cork city

“The 1932 congress was so important and we heard so much about it that I thought this was going to be huge.

“This is not huge and it’s different from what I thought it would be. But I suppose in 1932 it was more prayer-orientated.” - Annette Griffin from Slieve Rue in Co Kilkenny

“We are both grandmothers and coming here is a way of passing on the faith to our grandchildren.

“I have a bag full of prayer books for them but you have to be careful about not insulting the parents either.

“But it is always the Irishwomen who passed on the faith. It was the mothers’ role to do that. They’re the ones who take the children to Mass and sit with them.

“The men just stand at the back and wonder when the match is going to start.

“We both feel we have to do our best in passing on our faith to our grandchildren, and that’s why we’re here today.” - Mary Larkin from Slieve Rue in Co Kilkenny

“I came because my mother was at the congress in 1932 and she spoke of it so often that I felt I had to come to this one. She lived the moments of being here so often, and told us so many times about being here; how everyone was so happy.

“She also told us the toilets were very scarce. It’s better run now.” - Anne Reid from Tipperary town

 In conversation with ROSITA BOLAND