by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
Dr. Knight: You are the curate of St. Peter and St. Paul, what does that mean? What is the mission or focus of your parish?
Father David: A curate is an assistant Parish Priest, sometimes called an Associate Pastor in the United States. In my role as a curate I work alongside, but under the authority of the Parish Priest, Monsignor John Byrne. This involves work in administering the Sacraments, pastoral ministry such as visiting the sick and housebound and funerals, school ministry, I am Chairman of number of school boards and also chaplain to other schools, both primary and secondary schools (there are seven Catholic primary schools in the parish, and two Catholic secondary schools) and other areas.
The mission of Portlaoise Parish is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is at the heart of all that we try to do here in the Parish.
Dr. Knight: How did you receive your call to be a priest? How has this call changed over time?
Father David: It is a long story, but the short story is that I went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes when I was sixteen years old, which changed my attitude on faith and towards the Church. It started me on path of discovery that led me to know the deep love of Jesus Christ. From this I felt a call to priesthood. I think that this has changed over time. I can now see the many ways that God has prepared me for this calling, especially as I have grown into my priesthood.
Dr. Knight: What was your seminary training like? If you were teaching at the Seminary what would you change or add?
Father David: Long but necessary! Alongside my study of philosophy and then theology, I was also given the opportunity to study to degree level Irish and European History (with some American history thrown in) which I really enjoyed. Together with the academic studies I was also given many other opportunities in pastoral ministry and human formation, as well as deepening my own spiritual life. It was challenging as I think seminary should be, but I made some of my best friends in seminary, ones that I know I will have for life.
If I was to teach in seminary, or work on the formation team, I would perhaps introduce more practical parish work and the opportunity to really live in the parish without the pressure of over analyzing it for academic purposes.
Dr. Knight: How about an easy question: what is your favorite film at this time? Book? Have you seen “Quiet Place” or “Won’t You Be my Neighbor?” (for me Mr. Rodgers is the saint of childhood).
I have indeed seen The Quiet Place, and really enjoyed it, I never thought I would cry with sadness while watching a horror movie! I haven’t seen “Won’t You Be my Neighbor?” I’m afraid, I have never heard of Mr. Rodgers…sorry!
Dr. Knight: Do you have a RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program. What does that entail?
Father David: We don’t currently have a RCIA program in the parish. Most Catholics in Ireland are Catholic since birth. We are however, more and more seeing people who wish to join the Church, but the diocese advises us on how to proceed.
Dr. Knight: Do you think/feel that the use of social media in our parishes can assist young people to think about knowing/loving/serving God through their ‘cyber neighbor?
Father David: I think that the use of social media is a great way of getting the Good News of Jesus Christ out into the world, not just for young people but for everyone. When used correctly social media can be a powerful tool of evangelization. The use of technology is something that we must embrace more as a Church. We have seen great success in this area by Bishop Robert Barron and I really do see it as the way forward.
Dr. Knight: As a curate, you are able to educate and spiritually form many people in the society through your work. What issues are predominantly on your mind and heart?
Father David: Currently? The lasting effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think it has opened our eyes to many issues in the Church, especially in terms of the sacraments of initiation, Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation. All three sacraments are ingrained in Irish culture that I think we have all taken them for granted and their true meaning has been lost on many people, including priests. I have heard many people say that ‘we can’t go back to the old ways and I really do support this. I believe that the pandemic has given all of us the chance to push the reset button and I hope we don’t let this opportunity pass.
Dr. Knight: There have been very influential Bishops throughout the ages including saints. Who influenced you the most?
Father David: My favorite saints are John Marie Vianney and Maximillian Kolbe. St. John Vianney has taught me so much about what it means to be a priest, to really give my life to God, and to his people. Now I can’t see myself leaving on rotten potatoes but his total dedication to his parish, the people of God and the Church is inspiring. In many ways, St. Kolbe has inspired me in the same way. His total belief in the love and mercy of God is inspiring and aspirational.
Dr. Knight: It seems that this interview would help us understand your leisure activities and purposeful work that would be of interest to our readers such as the help that has been provided to immigrants.
Father David: In terms of my leisure activities, I love to read and just meet up with friends. It can be difficult to get some time away from the parish, but I find it very important to be able to get away even for a few hours. Parish ministry is not a nine-to-five job, so it is important to take a step back.
Dr. Knight: What other issues do you have as a priority for our work as a society?
Father David: I think the current pandemic is really eating into everything in our society at the moment. The effects that it is going to have on us, especially in the Church is something that is going to take up a lot of time and ministry.
In relation to Ireland, we have had a number of referendums here recently that has really challenged the moral aspect of the Church. There is a large portion of the Irish people who now can’t and won’t take any moral guidance from the Church, partly because of the abuse crisis. It is so important that we can still be an intelligent and genuine moral teacher in all areas of society.
Dr. Knight: In dealing with the issue of assisted suicide in your dealing with your parishioners, how do you help them see Jesus Christ as the healer?
Fr. David: This is fast becoming the next hot topic in Ireland. Again, I think it goes back to our ability not just to argue the case from the side of the spiritual but also from an intellectual side. I believe that faith and reason are both needed in today’s society, especially from the Church.
Thank you for doing this interview to help all of us understand your work in Ireland better and to live a life in Communion with Christ.