Betty, Johnny and Lisa Cotter, Margaret O’Connor and Tommy Carroll, making a presentation of a cheque for €600, proceeds of a fundraising night at the Top of the Town, Athea, to Tony Noonan of Noonan’s Lights.

Athea Drama Group

Athea Drama Group has a rich and generous history of donating to local and national charities each year. This year our group has decided that all proceeds from our final night of ‘Anyone Could Rob a Bank’ on March 5th will be presented to the Ahern family on behalf of Saint John’s Children’s Cancer Ward in Crumlin in memory of Ella Ahern RIP. The play will be staged at Con Colbert Hall, Athea at 8pm. As a community, this is a cause that is very close to all of our hearts. All support greatly appreciated. If you would like to donate towards this cause, or would like to donate a spot prize for the raffle on the night, contact any member of the group or ring 087 6663944.  

Knockdown Vintage Club

Knockdown Vintage Cub, with the assistance of Estuary Macra, are holding a Raffle and Vintage/Modern Charity Run on Sunday, April 2nd at The Knockdown Arms. A number of local causes have been selected to be the beneficiaries of our 2017 fundraising event. These are to include the elderly, school children and local community groups/charities. Tickets on sale at €2 each or 3 for €5 with 1st Prize-€100 Hamper, 2nd Prize-€75 cash, 3rd Prize-€50 Fuel Voucher and numerous other spot prizes. Your support, as always, would be greatly appreciated.

CFRs say Thank You 

The Community First Responders want to say a very big Thank You to everyone who gave so generously to their church gate collection last weekend.  A fantastic amount of €937.82 was collected.  This money will be used to maintain / purchase equipment and train new volunteers.  It is hoped to have training for new volunteers in May.  All members are trained in CPR, defibrillator use and administration of Oxygen and Aspirin.   The group are very privileged to have two qualified instructors, which means all members do 90 days refreshers and renew their 2-year certification free of charge.

Everyone is very welcome to our AGM which is always held in Sept-Dec of every year where you can view all their equipment and find out more about the group’s activities.

A reminder – in the case of an Emergency (out of hours) – cardiac arrest, chest pain, choking, heart attack or stroke, first ring emergency service (999 or 112).  It is helpful to have your eircode, as it is very useful for the ambulance service and saves you having to give directions.  Then ring the CFRs at 087 2737077.

Giving it up for Lent

The season of Lent is upon us and it got me thinking of my young days at school and  the lead up to  days of fasting before Easter. For a good while beforehand the question would be asked “what are you giving up for Lent?” . Everyone “gave up” something. For some it was sweets (it wasn’t really much of a sacrifice because we rarely saw sweets in those days), for others it might be sugar in the tea or using bad language or something else entirely. I remember my father and his friends used to give up the drink, or at least that was their intention. Instead of whiskey and porter they used to drink port or sherry. I suppose they didn’t consider them real drinks at all. Some tried to give up the cigarettes but that was harder than most could endure and they seldom saw it through. The day before Lent is known as Shrove Tuesday or, in many countries, Pancake Tuesday.  It was the last day to feast before Lent so it was traditional to eat enough on that day. It was also a popular day for people to get married. In those days marriages could not take place during Lent so there was a last minute rush on Shrove Tuesday to “beat the deadline” as it were. Most marriages were arranged and some of them had that date in mind.

There was a custom in Ireland that has disappeared. It happened in the church on the first Sunday of Lent. Young fellows would carry chalk into Mass in their pockets and, if they saw a bachelor who was eligible but had not married before Lent, they would draw a stripe on the back of his coat and he would be made fun of as he left the church. In some parts of the country they did it to young ladies as well. It was all a bit of fun. Although marriages were not allowed there was an exception.  Couples at one time sailed away to be married in the island monastery of Skellig Michael, off the Kerry coast, where an anomaly with the calendar meant that Lent came late. Skellig Rock was also a place of pilgrimage where young men and women went before Lent to pray for husbands and wives. Many comic verses were composed about couples running away to Skellig.

Fasting, from Ash Wednesday on was obligatory. One meal at two collations was allowed per day. The collations (the word actually means removing solids from liquid by straining or filtering) usually consisted of bread and tea but could not exceed a certain weight. It was not uncommon to see people weighing their bread with an “ouncel “ to make sure they did not exceed the allotted amount. In those days as well, it was the practice to fast from midnight the night before if one was taking Communion at Mass the following day. Add to that the fact that many people walked miles to the nearest church and one can begin to realise what sacrifices they made in those days. Lent was also the time for staging plays. Dances were not allowed for the duration so local drama groups put on plays instead on Sunday nights, the normal dancing nights. The plays were not taken too seriously and were staged to a lot of reaction from the crowd, most of whom had no interest in drama. Good farces went down best of all. We could not wait for St. Patrick’s Day to come around because, on that day, all fasting was suspended.  Sweets and chocolates were devoured as we made our way from Mass with a big bunch of shamrock pinned to our coat lapels. Sometimes there was a surprise in store. I once gave up sugar in my tea and I thought  it was bitter without it. I looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day and, for the breakfast, I put two heaped spoons of sugar into the cup. When I took a sip it tasted awful and I could not continue. From that day to this I haven’t used sugar in tea or coffee. After St. Patrick’s Day it was back to the same routine until Easter and preparations were made for a big feast. On Easter Sunday morning it was the custom to eat hard-boiled eggs, as many as you could stomach. There would be great rivalry afterwards as to who had eaten the most eggs. Some people who boasted of large numbers were, to say the least, economical with the truth. In some countries the eggs were painted. Red paint was often used as a symbol of the blood Jesus shed on the cross and the Easter egg itself was a reminder of the empty tomb after the resurrection. In modern times the real eggs have been replaced by chocolate ones and every child looks forward to getting a few on Easter Sunday.

Although many of the old customs have gone Lent gives us an opportunity to do something positive to help others. There will be many Trócaire boxes in evidence and there are many deserving charities who could do with a small donation to keep them going. It isn’t all about “giving something up”.  We can  make sacrifices if we want to but I honestly believe that positively helping someone is far more Christian. We are really well off now in comparison to the people who lived around me when I was a boy. They may not have much but you would never go hungry or in need of anything in those days. We could learn a lot from them

Domhnall de Barra

The German Experience

By Fr. Brendan Duggan

We will leave Poland for a time as I would like to tell you a little about my three years working in East Germany from 1992-95, after working as a science and religion teacher in Rockwell College, Cashel, Co. Tipperary. I thought it time for a change of air and of country. I volunteered in 1991 to go as part of a German/Irish team to open a new mission in Rostock which is part of the State of Mecklenburg and Western Pomerania. You have to remember that until 1989 East Germany was a communist state with a puppet Soviet influenced Government under a guy called Walther Ulbricht. Mecklenburg/Pomerania was the Northern State bordering the Baltic Sea and Poland. We opened a parish in Rostock in Summer 1993 called St. Joseph’s Parish. It had about 300 parishioners in total, many of them refugees from the Sudetenland (i.e. Bohemia and Moravia in the Czech Republic) who came after the war in 1946/48. They were Germans who had settled there and who also had produced famous Pilsner Beers. The community in Rostock were nice people, supportive of me and great Catholics.

When I arrived in Germany I began to study German at a good language school in Koln (Cologne). Our tutor was a Graduate in English and German who was excellent. After six months I had a working knowledge of my brand new language but I still was not very confident so I went to a further language school in Stuttgart for about eight weeks. I went up to  Rostock and I was appointed as the Pfarrer (Parish Priest). I now was virtually alone as the other two Germans with me spoke no English so in preparing homilies and doing marriages and baptisms I had to struggle. When I went to Germany I was 45 and after a year I realised I was about 10/12 years too old  at learning a new language and having to make a total cultural adaptation was very difficult when you reach your mid forties. I used to find teaching the confirmation program to 15/16 year old German teenagers rather problematic. These teens, though very nice, could easily take advantage of my faulty German. However I found it a great but somewhat humbling experience. My parish in Rostock was one of three and the two main parishes in a city of 500,000 were both Monsignors.

Let me tell you a little about Church economics in Rostock. Being a religious priest my salary of 5,800 Marks per month (about 3,000 Dollars) was paid to my Order directly by bank transfer. This was 1992 and a priest’s salary in New York was about 40% of it. I had a free house etc, so priests in Germany are very well paid. No wonder so many Polish priests who often speak German go to work there, as German priests are scarce and Lutherans also have to pay an extra tax of 9% in addition to their normal tax, which is collected by the State for a charge of 2% in order to be a member of the parish. Normally German priests give Christian services only to paid up members. This salary agreement goes back to the  September 1933 Concordat made between the Vatican and the German Government guaranteeing the rights of the Catholic Church in Germany. Pope Pius X11, then Papal Legate to Germany, negotiated the Concordat. I remember once talking with our Bishop in Mecklenburg where he was complaining that he was receiving only 45 million Marks a year to run his diocese which had about 22 parishes (Bishop Brendan would be envious!). So for us money was not an issue in Germany.

East Germany, formerly called the DDR (German Democratic Republic), became part of a United Germany in November 1989. on that same day land prices in East Germany jumped by a factor of 800%. Our parish building and land in Rostock comprised 3,000 square metres, bought for 3,000 West German Marks in 1966 was now worth 3,000 x 80 = 240,000 Marks and I am sure much, much more. So many residents and householders in East Germany became instant millionaires. However taxes also came into play.

More next week……….