Time has been called on a weekly Mass exclusively for men.

Disappointed lifelong members of a religious order in Limerick claimed they have been “relegated to the second division”.

They will now have to join with women for a Monday night Mass.

For the past 150 years, women have been turned away from attending the service for members of the Archconfraternity of the Redemptorist Order in Limerick. Sean O’Lochrain, 90, from Garryowen, and a minister of the Eucharist, said he has been left “heartbroken” by the move.

“It’s very sad. I’ve been coming here all my life, with my father and nine brothers. I’m heartbroken, really,” he said.

Tim McGrath, from Corbally, said: “Our Mass has been taken away from us.

“Our Monday evening Mass was our space and we wanted the status quo to remain.

“It’s a sad situation and very disappointing.”

The Archconfraternity, he said, felt “we’ve been relegated to the second division, to shared Mass status”.

“We were not given an opportunity to discuss this — there was no debate, no vote, nothing,” said Mr McGrath. “The majority don’t want any change.

“What a lovely present for our 150th anniversary.”

Up to 60 men have, in recent times, regularly attended the 8pm Monday Mass, down from thousands each night at its religious zenith.

Fr Seamus Enright, rector of the Redemptorists, said the move is “sad, but we have to be realistic”.

While having a Mass just for men “could be viewed as a bit anachronistic in this modern age”, he said, the rector also acknowledged: “For many people, it has proved to be a big break with tradition and a disruption in their lives.”

‘There was a time when 10,000 men attended the Masses’

In a sign of the times, a policy of rationalisation has brought to an end a Monday night Mass for men only in Limerick City.

A tradition in the city for 150 years, rector of the Redemptorists Fr Seamus Enright said the decision to end the Mass was sad, but realistic.

Members of the Archconfraternity of the Redemptorist Order have instead been requested to attend an earlier Mass for all parishioners. In the past, women were turned away from an 8pm Mass for men.

“Having two Masses on a Monday night just did not make sense,” explained Fr Enright. “The Archconfraternity is directed by the Redemptorists. There is no distinction between us, we are one and the same.”

He said a Mass exclusively for men could be viewed as “a bit anachronistic in this modern age”.

He said that, with a shortage of priests, “it is the next natural step, as our own numbers are down, as well, and we have to adopt a policy of rationalisation”.

Ger O’Brien, who attended the men’s Mass for 63 years, said the service was a social outlet for many.

“It was a lovely men’s club. Everyone would congregate in the church yard afterwards and talk about sport. Men like to meet on their own and have their own discussions, the same as women like to meet on their own, but we don’t talk about crochet or knitting.”

Sean O’Lochrain, 90, from Garryowen, said: “It’s very sad. I’ve been coming here all my life with my father and nine brothers. I’m heartbroken, really. There was a time when 10,000 men would attend the Archconfraternity Masses, thousands each night, but the priests are all old men now and so are we.”

Joe Kelly, from Richmond Park in Corbally, said he felt “rather nostalgic and a bit lonesome, because this is the end of a wonderful era”.

He added: “It was like an institution, really; we’ll never see the likes of it again.”

Tony Fitzsimons, from Ballinacurra Gardens, said they were “reared with the Archconfraternity” as young boys in Limerick City.

“It was either the confraternity or the back of the brush, if we didn’t go. Now, we’ll greatly miss it and are sad to see it go,” he said.

Churchgoer Richard O’Connor would have preferred if it were “just left to die out, because there’s only a handful of us left; the youngest here has to be 65”.

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