WHEN LOOKING INTO GALWAY DIOCESE THIS WEEK I CAME ACROSS THE STRANGE CASE OF A GALWAY PP REFUSING A LADY MEMBER OF THE TRAVELLING COMMUNITY INTO HIS CHURCH BECAUSE HE THOUGHT SHE WAS TOO SCANTILL CLAD!
Father Willie Cummins was holding a First Holy Communion ceremony for the children of Enistymon Parish – settled and travellers – and was standing “on guard” at the church door.
In his opinion, the woman was not suitably dressed for the ceremony and he refused to let her in.
Thank God the lady Traveller was not afraid of the priest and let him have a piece of her tongue.
She also accused Fr. Cummins of swearing at her!
THE CLARE CHAMPION
Silence about Traveller family who were ‘publicly humiliated’
Kathleen Sherlock says priest refused family entrance to church over dress-code
Kathleen Sherlock with (from left) Stacey and Jim – who made their first Holy Communion – Annishia Mahoney and Mary Ellen Sherlock in Ennistymon, Co Clare. Photograph: Eamon Ward
A Co Clare priest, whom a Traveller family say “publicly humiliated” them by preventing them attend a first Holy Communion service last weekend, is maintaining his silence on the issue.
Fr Willie Cummins, parish priest in Ennistymon, has not returned five calls from The Irish Times over a two day-period. Nor has he visited the Sherlock family in the town, two of whom he allegedly refused entrance to the church, telling them they were dressed “inappropriately”.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Galway also declined to comment, saying the matter was best addressed privately and locally. When put to him it had not been addressed privately or locally a week after the alleged incident, he said: “For all concerned, such things are best not played out in the media.”
Gardaí were called to the Church of Our Lady and St Michael, Ennistymon, at 11am last Saturday, a spokesman confirmed. “There was no public order incident or breach of the peace detected and no one was arrested.”
Kathleen Sherlock, from Deerpark halting site in the town, had two children – Stacey (8) and Jim (9) making their first Holy Communions. She says Fr Cummins refused her sister, Caroline Sherlock, and her older daughter, Kathleen Marie (19), entrance to the church as they had breached a dress-code. It dictated “no low-cut tops” and “no mini, mini skirts”.
“We took the dress code very, very seriously. It was an important day for us and the children were overwhelmed with excitement,” said Ms Sherlock.
Her sister Caroline wore a long-sleeved, high-necked white dress cut just above the knee, while Kathleen Marie, wore a “dress, sandals and a cape” and was “well covered up”, she says.
They were, however, told by Fr Cummins they were “inappropriately dressed”, says Ms Sherlock.
“I was inside the church with the children,” said Kathleen Sherlock. “My husband arrived with the other sons and he saw the gardaí had been called. He was so humiliated, he took the boys home. My son Patrick (16) came in to tell me what was happening.
“So I went out to Kathleen Marie. I was coming and going, trying to attend to her while also looking after Jim and Stacey inside. I was so upset my family was being treated like this.”
“All we wanted was a lovely family day. We are Traveller people and are entitled to our identity, and we respected the dress code. And still our day was destroyed. We are very hurt. We have lived in Ennistymon for over 20 years. That is our church. We have children due for communion and confirmation next year and now we’re worried. What will we do? If we’re not welcome they’re not welcome either.”
In a statement, the parish of Ennistymon said: “Every child who received their first Holy Communion in Ennistymon last Saturday did so with great dignity and grace, in an inclusive, prayer and song-filled, joyous liturgy.
“No child and no parent of a participating child was or would be excluded. These young people are a credit to their parents, their families, their schools, their community and their parish.”
Ms Sherlock said her family would like a “public apology as we were publicly humiliated”.
Father Cummins was a very silly man to insult and humiliate this Traveller lady on a special day in the parish.
I think she was dressed very well.
The Traveller girls and women have their own idea of style and they are entitled to that.
I have celebrated hundreds of wedding for the Travelling Community and I have seen all kinds of glorious dress.
Father Cummins owes that family a VERY BIG APOLOGY!
The Bishop of Galway should have severely wrapped his knuckles!