Wexford priest to ban non-Mass-goers from Confirmation?

Feb 10, 2018 | 7 comments

St Senan’s Parish Church, Enniscorthy

A Wexford priest, Fr Patrick Banville, has declared that “for Confirmation families, participation in Sunday Eucharist is not optional, it’s absolutely essential”

Having failed since the beginning of the school year to convince more than ten intending ‘Confirmation families’ of this, Fr Banville has called a public meeting for Thursday Feb 15th – “… I’m going to open this question(s) to the people, indeed, to anybody with an interest. What are your thoughts on the matter?”

Here below is the full text of Fr Banville’s notice in the St Senan’s parish bulletin:

Parish Think-Tank: Confirmation

The majority of Confirmation parents and Children have been absent from Sunday Eucharist since the start of the school year in September 2017. Indeed, they have been absent for many years. Nothing new there, you might argue. TOO true, unfortunately. This year though, their absence is more significant because I’ve made it abundantly clear that for Confirmation families, participation in Sunday Eucharist is not optional, it’s absolutely essential, and I’ve introduced measures to support the necessity of participation in Sunday Mass.
Unfortunately, whatever the reason, I have been largely ignored. Approximately – and this is upwardly generous – no more than 10 Confirmation children/families have been attending Mass in St. Senan’s Church over the past number of months (years!). It seems the majority of parents have refused to enter the struggle to participate in Sunday Mass but they will still present their children for Confirmation in March!
This suggests that for the majority of Confirmation parents Mass is not valued, it’s not a love-thing, a matter of attraction and encounter, and this absence (or at least the refusal to enter the struggle to get to Mass as a family) suggests that Confirmation is without a context.
I’m quite concerned about it and it occurred to me during the week that it would be good to hear what the people of the parish think. So, I’m going to open this question(s) to the people, indeed, to anybody with an interest. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Please come along to the Community Centre on Thursday, 15th February at 7.30 pm and join in the conversation.

Will the families for whom this message is intended turn up to this meeting? Is there an implied ultimatum in Fr Banville’s announcement – that Confirmation may be withheld from children whose families persist in ignoring his message?

We don’t yet know. (Sat 10th Feb, 2018)

This issue has an importance far wider than St Senan’s parish and Enniscorthy.  Should not only Confirmation but the other two sacraments of initiation – Baptism and First Eucharist – continue to be available for any family that applies, or be reserved for families already in weekly communion with the church?  Does it render these sacraments meaningless to continue with the first option?

And if the church is to adopt the second option, does it make sense for schools to be the default locus of preparation for First Communion and Confirmation – when, in many cases, only a minority of pupils in a given age cohort could be eligible?

All of these problems face an Irish Church for whom ‘Christendom’ – the ‘social envelope’ that made Catholic practice the social norm in Ireland – is fast collapsing.  The Irish Church teeters on the edge of a crucial decision that will radically affect its future and its internal relationships.

Fr Banville’s decision suggests that some priests may be exasperated by the social use of Catholic sacraments as mere ceremonial ‘rites of passage’ – something that ‘people do’ only because ‘everybody does’ – but what will they decide to do about that?


Update – March 2nd, 2018 – that intended meeting on February 15th was cancelled

On February 24th a news item appeared in the Enniscorthy Guardian, to the effect that Fr Banville had at the last minute cancelled that proposed meeting on February 15th due to intensive and unexpected publicity – with the intention of holding such a discussion later when it could occur without such publicity.

According to the Guardian’s report, Fr Banville had announced on the parish Facebook page on Feb 15th:  “In light of the very intensive – and unanticipated – media interest in tonight’s proposed meeting in St Senan’s Parish, I have decided to cancel the gathering. The proposed ‘faith formation conversation’ I initially envisaged is, I believe, an important one and it does need to occur. To properly occur, it should proceed in a more structured and shared manner, and it needs to occur without making individuals the subject of publicity or attention.”


  1. Mary Vallely

    Point of information, Sean. You can only access the full article if you are a subscriber to The Irish Times. For those of us who buy the hard copy it is frustrating that we cannot access it online too. I look forward to reading about the 15 Feb meeting with the parents and would like to think it would be conducted in such a way that everyone is free to speak freely and without feeling in any way intimidated. Certainly it is a topic which very much needs all of us to reflect on as it is not just a parochial but universal problem.
    ‘However, this year “their absence is more significant because I’ve made it abundantly clear that for Confirmation families, participation in Sunday Eucharist is not optional, it’s absolutely essential, and I’ve introduced measures to support the necessity of participation in Sunday Mass. Unfortunately, whatever the reason, I have been largely ignored,” he said.’
    I don’t know the priest, Fr Banville, but I think we can tell a lot about his attitude here. He’ll only antagonise people with this sort of ultimatum. Of course discussion is necessary but you need to be open to listening to others and to have that innate respect evident in your whole attitude. This is a problem that affects every parish in Ireland at present but you will not get people back to mass by this sort of threat. As for the confirmation children, they are not to be blamed for how their parents behave!

  2. soconaill

    Thanks, Mary. When I logged out of the IT site I was still able to access that page, so it seems that one is allowed a number of ‘freebie’ pages before the pay wall applies.

    Yes – Fr Banville might have been wiser to hold his public meeting at the start of the year – after stipulating the need for Mass-going for intended Confirmation pupils. We don’t know what reasons those families might have for non-attendance: Fr Banville may discover those on Thu 15th, but might he have been wiser to find them out much earlier?

  3. Frank Gregg

    Fr Paddy amd I are well acquainted from his time in Newbridge. I can accept what he says in the context of a fully renewed congregation which is alive to the Holy Spirit – the question would be superfluous then – but we live in the “wake” of a disintegrating loyalty to an authoritarian church organisation which has little, if any, resemblance to the Gospel values.
    We have been found out as a failed group !!, – disgraced – Our task is a sackcloth and ashes posture for quite some time yet- until those of us who transgressed morally or sung dumb are on the wane – we need a whole church repentance period !!!

    We need a new welcoming non judgmental organism of church which espouses the experience of a renewing Lord in our lives – Who transforms us personally in the truth our existence.
    Simply, we need Jesus Christ as Our Risen Saviour.

    Fr. Paddy has a heart centred on the Lord which I have experienced.

    Why complicate our need?

    The Living Jesus is our need.

    Yours and mine – Thank You Lord

  4. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    If Catholic parishes were listening to what Pope Francis is telling us about how we should be supporting innovation towards a oneness with each other, this would not be an issue. The children would be lined up for miles simply because these are the changes they are suing governments for right now and the adults are still lagging behind.

    It’s almost embarrassing as a species how much we are all lagging behind their innovative design for self-sustainable municipal systems. The progress is there to be made but only with a focused audience of adults.

    • soconaill

      For Pope Francis ‘everything is connected’, Lloyd Allan – but very few in Ireland are seeing those connections.

      For example, although the idea of ‘sacrifice’ is well understood by many as ‘self-giving’ – and this quality is central to global recovery – I have never heard an Irish priest making that connection in relation to the central message of the ‘Holy Sacrifice of the Mass’.

      The latter is presented as something to attend as a matter of duty rather than as a celebration of the sacrifices that so many do make for the benefit of others. We are sleepwalking past the ‘treasure hidden in the field’. Let’s pray that Fr Banville’s meeting on Thu 15th can wake everyone up.

      • Lloyd Allan MacPherson

        In 2013 when I made this claim on the ACP website prior to Francis’s ascention: https://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2013/01/new-momentum-needed-on-climate-change/

        It was followed through with this in 2015 by the Franciscan Action Network:


        The petition I lobbied for behind the scenes through Sean MacDonagh came into force too. The Franciscan Action Network has been on top of things.

        The Jesuits and Franciscans have really been responsive but you can’t allow your local flavour of Catholicism shape how it is each of you responds to this.

        Sean, you won’t probably ever hear a priest make that connection but it doesn’t mean that this Spirit doesn’t grow among a body of people large enough to form an army of support, on a municipal level. We need to bridge more than ever now. Those gaps can be closed if you start to research which dioceses are supportive and then aim to launch municipal level activities in the real world that support self-sustainability.

        This doesn’t solve itself. It is one hand holding another, then another until the bridge is made. It can be done on a municipal level in 7 years through innovation brought to us by our children but we haven’t been able to tackle it in the real world.

        The lawsuit gives us the ability to win over anyone who stands in our way.


        • Lloyd Allan MacPherson

          Now you might be asking “What is one to do in a circumstance that worsens now every year going forward?”

          I’m going to give you 2 hints : get an aggressive plan in action in your parishes to educate people on how to convert their housing in as little as 2 years and their cars and complete lifestyles in 7.

          We have 2 years to have an aggressive plan in place and mine starts and ends with 1.2bn people yet I can’t convince 100,000 that it is a good idea yet, despite my over-arching record on volunteerism.

          You have a tendency to feel like you’ve been able to convince the kids but the adults let you down, every step of the journey, yet with some glimmer of light in recesses/reforms, like a few Seans I know along with some media people and water protectors world wide.

          The deadline is April 1 for Church activities. If I can’t convince you that this is worth you putting down everything else you are doing for 4 hours to hear me out, I don’t know what else will – there’s a global petition, a federal lawsuit, a papal encyclical, with a now world wide distribution of wealth of 82% to 1% of the population and a plastics ban from China due to health reasons. I’m not sure what else to throw your way to get a proper response out of you.

          The kids are not heading back to the Churches anytime soon on this behaviour. You are all still at the fossil-fuel party while your government decries medical emergency. We have to tackle this together and swiftly.

          I can train you in 4 hours on how to roll out a 2-year plan in the municipalities you occupy – Catholics can unite first to help the transition and market economy.

          We have to give it a big boost together now. It has come to this, now. Everyone needs to be ready to cooperate.


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