World Meeting of Families: It takes guts to say you go to Mass

One young Catholic says festival is a chance to meet others who ‘still share the faith’

Maria O'Sullivan was one of the younger faces among the crowd on the opening day of the World Meeting of Families at the RDS on Wednesday.

Ms O’Sullivan, a 20-year-old student from Dublin, said the Catholic festival was a chance to “meet up with other people who still share the faith”.

She said it was an opportunity to see “the good quality in the church, because there’s a lot of negativity going around”.

"Pope Francis is coming and that's pretty cool . . . It kind of takes a bit of guts sometimes to say you're a young person who still goes to Mass."


Ms O’Sullivan said people of her age can be taken aback when she tells them she is a practising Catholic.

“I’m kind of quite reserved in college and school and stuff; a lot of people go on about the bad side of the church, and that’s fine, that’s understandable.”

She added: “You are reserved in saying you’re Catholic, because there is a perception that you’re old and you’re just following your parents’ wishes, and you are backward thinking.”

Prayers for good weather

Sr Lucyna Wisniowska, a member of the missionary sisters of St Peter Claver, is originally from Poland but has lived in Terenure, Dublin, for nine years.

She said she had been looking forward to the event: “We were preparing with the novena of prayers for the good weather.”

The prayers had not kept the rain at bay on Wednesday, which was okay, she said, as “there are many people from outside [Ireland] so they have to experience Irish weather”.

Indeed, a large portion of the crowd came from abroad, including one young couple from Lithuania, Jurate and Benediktas Rimeika. They flew into Dublin on Sunday, and will stay until Friday.

“We came this morning at 10am, we are looking around at what is happening,” Benediktas said.

There was a “very good atmosphere”, Jurate said.

Noreen Lynch, who works in Dublin, said: “I am going to be involved as a volunteer later in the week, so I’m just around today getting a sense of it.”

Irish Catholics attending the festival were “very conscious” of respecting people who would find the event, and the papal visit, a difficult experience, she said.

“I would say I’m a practising Catholic, it matters to me. It doesn’t mean I think the institution, the system, is great,” she said.

“I would stand with people like Marie Collins and Mary McAleese who would be saying ‘we are better than this’.”

Former bishop of Limerick Donal Murray attended the opening day of the festival, and said there was a "great buzz" about the RDS. He resigned in 2009 following criticism of his handling of child sex abuse allegations in the Murphy commission report, which examined the Dublin archdiocese.

“It’s great to see the worldwide dimension, we can get very caught up in our own neck of the woods, as if our problems are unique,” he said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times