The Family Mass was started as a special Mass for children in the early 1980’s when, at a Pastoral Council meeting, Fr. O’Keeffe, then senior curate in the parish, drew attention to the need to develop a Liturgy for Children in the parish. Jim Brady volunteered to help and the Children’s Liturgy, as it was then called, was born. It was agreed that, initially, there would be a special Mass for children once a month in the Candle Room of the church. Children would be encouraged to participate as much as possible in the preparation and celebration as servers, readers, in singing and in the presentation of the gifts. The candle room was, over time, decorated with appropriate tapestries, pictures (often prepared by the children themselves) and flowers brought from their gardens by them.
With the blessing of Canon O’Hare, then P.P., the priests took it in turns to celebrate Mass for the children and speak to them. The aim was to present the Word of God to the children at their level and in a way they could understand. This was successful as the children seemed to enjoy it and attended regularly at their Mass.
When Fr. McHale became PP we had gained enough confidence to extend the liturgy to the Mass once a month and a special Liturgy of the Word in the candle room during the normal Mass on the other weeks. Fr. Denis Laverty, Fr. Tom Murphy, Fr. Paddy McHugh, Fr. Des O’Sullivan were especially helpful and Fr. Gerry Condon who was with us for a year, was very popular with his magic tricks. Later stalwarts were Fr. Paddy Dore, Fr John McNamara, Fr. Denis Robinson (then Deacon) and the inimitable Fr. Gerry Moore. Congregations of 50-60 children were common.
Initially the Children’s Liturgy was always conducted by a priest but as time passed and their workload increased, the Mass was discontinued and the task of conducting the now weekly Children’s Liturgy was delegated more and more to Jim Brady and his small group of teenage helpers (Fergal, Conleth and Etain Brady and Ruth Slattery) who had grown up attending the weekly liturgy. In due time the team was joined by Rita Doolan whose children attended and who volunteered to help. She has been a very loyal and valuable member of the group ever since.
So the Children’s Liturgy continued for some years with many children passing through our ranks until in recent years we have the pleasure of seeing some, now parents, bringing their children each Sunday.
In August, 1998, we introduced LOOK, a children’s paper to augment what we were doing in the Children’s Liturgy. In this we used our experience in presenting the Gospel Story each week to prepare a children’s version of the Gospel with commentary. It has now reached issue 730 and will hopefully continue for another few years. It is freely available each week on the church radiators.
In the spring of 2004 there was a major change when a group of parents, including Anne Dooley and Derek Peppard offered their help and proposed a new Family Mass Group. The Parish Priest of the time, Fr Tom Kearney approved and a new Family Mass Group was formed.
A new order of a Family Mass on the first and third Sunday of each Month in the church and a Children’s Liturgy in the newly redecorated Children’s Chapel was initiated.
The new Family Mass Group set out to support all family members on their faith journey while continuing to serve the children of the parish in a special way. They continued the tradition of the previous group of focussing on active participation and involvement in the Sunday liturgy. This participation continues to take many forms – procession, reading, composing prayers, art, drama, colour, even the reintroduction of old traditions such as the Corpus Christi procession. Marking the different liturgical seasons of the church year as fully as possible has also been of great importance to us – all with a view to helping us to worship the Lord more fully.
To give full expression to the concept of Family Mass, the group introduced special liturgies celebrating the role and importance of different family members, such as grandparents, mothers, fathers, babies, etc at the Special Masses of Blessing or to pray for the concerns of families at different stages of life e.g., the Back to School Mass or the Exams Mass. Links with the schools and with groups like scouts and guides have been priorities too and indeed one of the greatest fruits of the Family Mass has been the development and support of the First Holy Communion and Confirmation Programmes (Do This in Memory and You Shall Be My Witnesses). Other spin-offs have included “Spirit” Summer camps, art & drama workshops and indeed the Family Fun Day to celebrate this special anniversary of the parish!
Music has formed a vital part of our Family Masses thanks in no small part to the commitment & dedication of Geoff Woods – for the first few years with the help of a committed and talented group of teenagers of whom the Doolan and O’Regan families were the mainstays and more latterly with a younger group of singers and musicians.
The Family Mass Group was anxious from the start to celebrate the community dimension of our Eucharist and for this reason always has team members at the church doors to hand out the missalette with a word of welcome. The occasional cup of tea or party after mass has helped us all get to know each other so that our coming together to celebrate on a Sunday feels that bit more like the gathering of the “family” of God.
The initial team of Anne & Sean Dooley, Anne O’Leary, Derek & Mairead Peppard, Bernie Drumgoole, Rita Doolan, Geoff Woods, Mary Stack, Fiona Owens, Jim Brady and Fr Gerry Moore has long since been extended to include many more, too numerous to list here, who have given of their time and talents in the service of the parish.