The future of Derry’s Aifreann Gaeilge - Irish Mass - is under threat due to the imminent closure of the Nazareth House Chapel in Bishop Street.
The chapel has hosted Derry’s Aifreann Gaeilge for almost 50 years. However, the Nazareth Sisters, who came to the city in 1892, are closing it and their long-established adjoining residential care home on September 7.
Mr Tomas Ó Donghaile, a long-standing member of Pobal Dhoire (the Aifreann Gaeilge congregation) said Derry’s diocesan authorities seem reluctant to provide a new venue.
He said: “Sadly, the final Aifreann Gaeilge will be read at the Nazareth House Chapel this Sunday, August 25. However, although Pobal Dhoire has requested an alternative venue from the diocesan authorities, to enable us to continue to worship in our native language, none has been forthcoming.
“Apart from confirmation by the Nazareth Sisters of the impending closure, the diocesan authorities have not communicated with Pobal Dhoire, Cór an Ghrianán (our choir) or Derry’s three gaelscoileana regarding another chapel for the Aifreann Gaeilge. I do not understand this silence.”
Another member of Pobal Dhoire described the existence of the Aifreann Gaeilge as having always been ‘precarious’.
He said: “In spite of the fact that the Aifreann Gaeilge was established almost 50 years ago, it has never once been listed in the Derry Diocesan Directory.”
According to Tomas Ó Donghaile the Aifreann Gaeilge owed its inception to Derry gaeilgeoir Proinsias Ó Mianáin.
He said: “In the wake of Vatican II, Catholics all around the world welcomed the decision to embrace native cultures and languages, specifically reading Mass in their native languages, instead of Latin. Irish speakers in Derry campaigned to have a Sunday Mass through the medium of Gaelige.
“A deputation from An Cumann Gaelach in the Strand Road, consisting of Eileen Gillen, Marie Nic Ruairí and I, met with Reverend Neil Farren, the late Bishop of Doire. He agreed to a trial period of one Aifreann Gaeilge per month, in the Nazareth House in Bishop Street, if the Nazareth Order agreed. The Nazareth House nuns did so willingly and after two months Fr Jack Gallagher arranged for the Gaeilge Mass to take place every week.”
Mr Ó Donghaile added: “The heartfelt thanks of Pobal Dhoire go out to the devoted Nazareth House nuns and dedicated priests who made the 40 plus years of Aifreann Gaeilge possible. I hope we will hear from the diocesan authorities this week so that the tradition of a weekly Aifreann Gaeilge in Doire will remain unbroken.”