A man has become the first deacon in the Catholic Church in Ireland to perform a wedding ceremony for his daughter.

John Taaffe walked his only daughter Amy down the aisle of St Mary’s Church in Drogheda, then nipped into the vestry, donned his clerical garb, and re-emerged to conduct the ceremony as Amy married long-time sweetheart David Cunningham.

A deacon in Louth town’s St Peter’s parish, John said: “It was emotional when I walked Amy down the aisle. I was, like any father would be, in a bit of a state — my emotions were all over the place.

“When I went in to change into my robes it actually took me a while to settle down and get my thoughts together. That was only natural, I suppose. It’s not something you’d do every day.”

And not something he’s likely to do again either: “That’s true. Amy is my only daughter, I have two sons, I’m actually a granddad as well.”

He was one of Ireland’s first permanent deacons after being ordained at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh in 2013. He can perform weddings and take charge of funerals but cannot celebrate a full Mass, although he can assist a priest.

“People get confused when they hear the title deacon. They assume I am going on to be a priest, and there are those type of deacons as well, but I am a permanent one, I am still happily married to Joan,” said John.

“I was a little surprised when Amy asked me to officiate. My decision to become a deacon was something she struggled with as a teenager but, since I was ordained, she and the rest of the family have been hugely supportive.”

His day became even more confusing as he had to perform not one but two speeches for the occasion.

John gave the homily in the church, then delivered a father of the bride speech at the reception in the Cabra Castle hotel in Kingsport.

“That was a bit daunting, the homily was the most serious, although I raised a few laughs. The speech at the reception was more intimate; to tell you the truth all I was worried about by that stage was making sure the guests were not fed up listening to me.”

John is also the national co-ordinator of the Irish Bishops’ Drug Initiative.


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John’s chairs will last a lifetime, but he is also passing on his knowledge to a new generation, writes Ellie O’Byrne.Made in Munster: The ancient art of súgán-making is woven into Irish family history

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