For nearly 1,400 years, the Catholic Church held an overwhelming sense of authority in Ireland, especially in terms of faith, politics, and culture.
With approximately 90 percent of the country going to Mass every week, Pope Paul VI in 1946 called Ireland, “the most Catholic country in the world.”
That was then.
With the snowballing effects of modernization, secularization and scandals rocking the Catholic Church, the Irish, according to one Irish priest, “are becoming more honest” with their own faith. Estimates of the faithful now hover at approximately 20 percent, and even lower in some parts of the country.
The passing of same-sex marriage in late May of 2015 was yet another red flag signaling the passing of the Catholic Church.
Through these cultural changes, many Irish are now more proud to be Irish—no longer calling themselves "Irish Catholic."
Still, the Church is not giving up. Currently the Church is beginning to reevaluate their new position of “just being a church,” as one local Irish history professor said.
For one young passionate deacon, Daniel Gallagher, who is set to be ordained in July 2016, knowing the importance of connecting with modern culture, without compromising his mission as a leader in the faith, he says, can be an effective way to bring people, especially millennials, back to Mass.
“There’s an old saying in Ireland, this might sound cliché, but there is this great saying in Ireland that says, ‘It’s always better to light a candle than to curse the darkness,’’’ Gallagher said.
There is a future for the Catholic Church in Ireland, Gallagher says, but it must be approached with an awakened sense of humility, prayer and hope.