'Religious version of the men’s shed movement' going strong

Members of a Catholic association solely for men in Limerick have said they have not “died out” after their last exclusive men’s Mass was “euthanised” by the Church this summer.

Members of the Archconfraternity of the Redemptorist Order in Limerick.

The Archconfraternity of the the Redemptorist Order in Limerick, which has been in existence for 150 years, had for the past 50 years enjoyed a men’s only Mass.

However, due to falling congregations and a policy of “rationalisation” by the Church, the men’s Mass has ended and its faithful were asked to join in an earlier Mass time with a mixed congregation on Monday nights.

Several members of the Archconfraternity objected to the move, with life-long member Tim McGrath, from Corbally, claiming they felt as if they had been “relegated to the second division, to shared Mass status”.

However, this week, after their first “mixed Mass” after a summer break, Mr McGrath said the threatened boycott of the new Mass time has not occurred and they are “settling in fine” with the new order.

“We have not been demoted, nor promoted,” he told the Limerick Leader. “We have been simply shifted a bit. The format has changed. The fact that it’s a mix now didn’t make the slightest difference to the procedure.

“The men who had objected and said they wouldn’t come to the joint Mass did come back, which was encouraging. It’s going to work out alright, I think.” He said he did “most certainly not mean any disrespect to women, or offend anyone, or suggest the Archconfraternity is in any way chauvinistic” by his earlier remarks, which he admitted were perhaps “a bit strong”.

“We just thought it would die a natural death, but it was a euthanasia in the end.

“We haven’t died out. We would still encourage young and not-so-young men to join the confraternity.”

Mr McGrath said any man who wishes to join can approach the secretary of the Church or join the 7.15pm Mass on Monday.

There are no other conditions or inauguration rites required to become a member.

“Freemasons we are not,” Mr McGrath joked.

Fr Seamus Enright, rector of the Redemptorists at Mount St Alphonsus in the city, said he felt the “transition went well”, while recognising it was a dramatic change for some lifelong members of what could be viewed as “the religious version of the men’s shed movement”.

In recent times, the Confraternity Mass only drew in the region of 60 men — with the youngest aged 65 and the oldest aged 90 — down from several thousand men each night at its height.

Fr Enright said a women’s Confraternity had also existed, “but died a long time ago”.

“It was never as big as the men’s and just disbanded many decades ago,” he said.

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