While attendance at Mass among “native” Irish Catholics has been through a steady decline in recent years, the devout arrivals from Poland have bolstered the numbers and that is set to continue during the upcoming Lenten season, starting on Wednesday.
One city centre church in Cork, located in the heart of a thriving Polish community, is laying on extra Masses this Lent.
While the Cork and Ross diocese looks likely to cut Masses generally because of falling numbers of priests, St Augustine’s Church in Washington Street reports that numbers at Lenten Masses are expected to be as high as ever.
“There’s still a buzz about it,” said Fr Pat Moran yesterday, designated as Temperance Sunday by the Catholic bishops. “We’ll have Masses at 8.30, 9.30, 11, and 4pm during Lent and we would get a couple of hundred at the 9.30 and 11 Masses.”
Stations of the cross will also be held at 3.30pm each Tuesday and Thursday and have also traditionally pulled in big crowds. “The tradition is certainly being maintained, absolutely.”
Meanwhile, with a congregation of about 1,200 at last night’s Polish Mass in St Augustine’s, chaplain Fr Piotr Galus is also putting on extra ceremonies.
Other churches in urban areas that are home to large Polish contingents are also expected to see increased numbers at this year’s Lenten services, although in rural areas the numbers attending daily Mass during the season are expected to decline.
With the amount of diocesan priests throughout the country down by 30% from 50 years ago — to 2,500 — cuts in the amount of Masses and sharing of priests between parishes are expected to continue.