On a sunny summer’s evening in Co Kerry, the community of seaside town Ballinskelligs gathered for the blessing of the boats, an ancient tradition kept alive by the locals.
“When we gather for something that has a tradition,” said Fr Patsy Lynch, who led the service on Wednesday, “it connects with something deep inside of us.”
Fr Lynch has a passion for staying connected with these practices, and for the second year running in Ballinskelligs, the locals now share that too.
More than 100 people turned up for the blessings and prayers for the Irish Herring fishing season ahead. Children could be heard playing traditional Irish music along Ballinskelligs Pier as families of all ages congregated for the service.
“It brings the whole community together,” he said. “It was a wonderful prayerful occasion.”
The blessing of the boats is a “time-honoured traditioned that goes back centuries”, said Fr Lynch. “Some say it began with early Greek fishermen.”
Children tossed flowers into the sea to remember those who embarked from the harbour but never returned. One family had three generations of fishermen in attendance, a grandfather, father and son.
Fr Lynch said the “entire community” came down for the blessings, which were followed by a BBQ and drinks nearby. A local chef took charge of the food and families heard singing from people in the community. “It created a great community atmosphere,” said Fr Lynch.
"We have a lot of holiday homes here; we have people especially from Cork coming down. They’re very much part and parcel of the community and they were all there and blending in with the community, which is lovely to see.”
The service was also livestreamed as Fr Lynch is a keen adopter of new technology, getting the nickname “drone priest” after receiving press coverage last year for livestreaming the blessing of the graves via drone.
“We have to embrace technology way, way more,” he said. “There’s no such thing as going back to normal [after the pandemic]. Everything has changed.”
Fr Lynch is active in the local community, always seeking ways to connect with others and modernise the church.
But with his expected age of retirement approaching next year, amid severe priest shortages in Ireland, will he step back?
“Not yet,” he said. “I would love to continue on.”