Getting a kick from service: One woman’s journey in the church
Mary Smiddy of Killeagh Pastoral Council in Co Cork describes ‘enrichment’ through roles
Members of the choir of St John The Baptist Catholic Church in Killeagh, Co Cork, who are to sing at the World Meeting of Families this week. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
When a lay person gets involved in the church and takes on roles, there is a tendency to use the word “duties.”
Mary (57) is a Minister of the Word, a Minister of the Eucharist, brings Holy Communion to the sick, is involved in the cleaning of the church, is part of the liturgy group and helps facilitate the running of the Confirmation programmes. She also attends and runs religious courses.
The secondary school teacher says it is vitally important that lay people have a voice in the church.
Mary indicates that her role is the equivalent of another person being involved in the GAA. She stresses that she “gets a kick” from her work and that she has got to know so many people from her involvement in the church. She is keen to emphasise that the church is fulfilling to her life and that she is not “holier than thou.”
“You get to know people at a different level and my faith has grown as a result by being actively involved. Mass and the sacraments mean so much more than they would have before.”
She says said when she was young there was a clear delineation between the church and the laity. The priest was somebody one didn’t engage with and one’s role was simply to attend Mass. Now she stresses it has become “so much more than that.”
She says the message that Pope Francis is preaching involves equality, inclusivity, and involvement. “There are problems but there are in every institution and the church isn’t just institution and it isn’t just man made laws. “
Mary is keenly anticipating the visit of Pope Francis because when Pope John Paul II landed in Ireland in 1979 she had just finished her Leaving Certificate and ended up babysitting. She remembers the local postman dropping in a letter to her home where he caught a section of the Galway Mass on his rounds.
“The whole world came to a stop. It was a different world then as well. We have a lot of people going to the (the Phoenix Park) from the parish. We have the choir and then there is bus of 34 of the rest of us. There will be a lot of celebration and joy on the day.”
Mary lost her four-year-old son David in 1996 in a traffic incident and says that her loss even further emphasised the importance of relationships and community. She is firmly of the belief that she will see David again. “There is hope. There is more than this spot of time we have on earth. It is part of a bigger picture.”
A year after the death of her son, a court case took place in Cork. The young man who had knocked her son down after his car veered across the main road was facing sentencing after he was found guilty of dangerous driving.
Mary says “from somewhere” - perhaps her faith - she “got the guts” to stand up and say that she didn’t want the teenager to receive a custodial sentence. The driver, whom the court had heard appeared to have fallen asleep at the wheel, received a suspended sentence for causing the death of David and a man in his 20s after the families of the deceased said that prison wasn’t a solution.
“It was the words of our father ‘Forgive us our trespasses,’” she says. “ Faith had a role to play there. It was an accident in its purest form. Bitterness solves nothing.”
Mary says her faith sustained her through the loss of her child and that she gets far more back from the church than she gives. She would encourage lay people to get involved in their local pastoral councils.
“I have become more open with my faith than I had been. Being (involved) in the council is far from a heavy burden. Being part of the council makes all of my mass attendance more meaningful. It makes life more meaningful.”