Tory Island, off the coast of County Donegal in Ireland has not had a full time priest since September. Photo courtesy of Colin Park, Wikimedia Commons

Residents of remote Irish island happy they'll have Christmas Mass

By  Nick Bramhill, Catholic News Service
  • December 20, 2016

DUBLIN – Residents of a remote Irish island have had their prayers answered when it was confirmed they would have a priest to celebrate Christmas Mass.

Father Kieran Creagh had spent more than four years living on Tory Island, nine miles off the coast of County Donegal, but was reassigned in September. Since then, the island's 150-strong community has been without a full-time clergyman, even though temporary arrangements have since been in place for a substitute Catholic priest to be ferried over to the isle on weekends.

Although the Diocese of Raphoe still has not assigned a permanent replacement priest for the island, residents expressed relief on learning that arrangements had been made for a priest to travel from the mainland to celebrate Christmas Mass.

Patsy Dan Rodgers, nicknamed the "king of Tory," said he was delighted with the news.

"We miss not having a full-time priest over here and were sad to see Father Creagh leave," he said. "But we've been lucky enough to have had cover on the island for Sunday Mass ever since, and we're extremely grateful for this, because priests are so scarce these days."

"Christmas on Tory Island is like nowhere else. It starts on Dec. 23 when Santa is flown over here in a helicopter. It's a magical occasion for the children here, because he arrives with gifts.

"There's another tradition which goes on here on Christmas Eve, where the older people are given gifts, like boxes of chocolates. And then of course, there's the Christmas Mass, which is hugely important to us all."

Rodgers, 72, who makes a point of personally greeting every passenger ferry that lands on the three-mile-long island, said religion still plays as important a role in the community as the flourishing Irish language. He said the remnants of a sixth-century monastery, founded by St. Columba, demonstrate the outpost's strong Christian tradition.

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Merry Christmas to all.

Dr.Cajetan Coelho
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