Ad Limina – no need to be afraid of married priests or of Francis.

Dear Irish Bishops gathered in Rome for your Ad Limina visit. I am writing this letter to you from Recife, Brazil. I am an Irish Catholic priest. I came to Brazil as a missionary priest in 1967, worked in four different parishes as a celibate priest then in 1983 I asked for and was granted a dispensation to marry. I married a lovely Brazilian woman, her name is Marta; we have two children, a married daughter of 32 years and a single son of 29 years.
From the day that I got married I have never stopped doing missionary work with the poor. I did this as a celibate priest for 17 years and I have continued to do so as a married priest for the past 34 years.
I have been able to reconcile being married, having a secular job and finding time for missionary work. This is due to my wife as she gives me great support in my pastoral work . Together we do a lot of pastoral work and I can honestly say that if today I am still faithful to my missionary priestly vocation it is thanks to her. In my case the argument that a woman will turn a priest away from his vocation does not apply; if anything, she is the one that has helped me keep alive the flame of my priesthood all these years.
I remember the words of my first Brazilian Bishop, Dom Hugo was his name, who at a clergy meeting addressed all the priests with these words: “Se casar, escolhe bem”  – “If you marry choose well”. I would certainly agree with him and would pass on this advice to any priest who is thinking of getting married and who wants to keep on doing pastoral work, it is very important that both of you have the missionary spirit. Marta has been a tremendous support to me. Together we plan and do pastoral work and I know that our witness is appreciated by the people. Everyone knows who my wife is, there is nothing hidden or in secret whereas there are some priests who are in secret relationships, and this causes great scandal.
One of the big problems for a priest who is in a relationship and is thinking of giving up public ministry is the question of his financial support and secondly the fear of taking up a secular job to earn his bread for neither seminary life nor parish work can prepare him for this.
I remember when I left the parish to get married I left with one hand in front of me and another behind me I didn’t have a penny to my name. The diocese did not ask me if I had money for my breakfast the next morning and I’m not complaining about this as it was my decision to get married. Thankfully though my wife and I managed to get teaching jobs and even though our salaries were small we managed to set up our home and bring up our two children. As a married priest I have never been a financial burden to the diocese.
Today after 34 years of married life I still feel and know that I have been faithful to the calling of Our Lord and that my marriage has helped me be a better priest.
As I say I still do a lot of pastoral work. Actually I do everything I did as a celibate priest except say a public Mass. I respect the Church’s ruling on this although I do not agree with it. Here in Brazil there are many communities that only have the Eucharist every 2 to 3 months or more. I could celebrate for them if only the church would accept me. I have some fine wonderful celibate priest friends who are doing great work. Some of these though are not on the job 24 hours a day. They are not available all day if someone needs them. Some of these are studying full time in a university for a secular degree, such as Law, or Counselling, or Management; others are directors of a big college. So in my opinion the argument that a married priest won’t be able to devote himself to his people does not stand. I teach to earn my living, to pay my bills to put bread on the table but I also have time for my pastoral work, it is possible to do both.
Secondly if a parish priest wishes he can prepare and train groups of people to take on pastoral responsibilities which they can do in his absence.
I’m 79 years old and thank God my health is very good. I would not wish to be a parish priest again, that’s for younger men, but if the church would accept people like me, I would willingly serve in a public way in small communities where I could celebrate the Eucharist. I know I am a priest. I’m not an ex-priest. I did not turn by back on the church when I got married. I thank Our Lord for Marta, the woman who is my wife today, she has helped me so much to be a good husband, a good father and a good priest.
My dear Bishops be not afraid of married priests, do not be afraid to bring up this question with the Holy Father.
Brian Eyre, Catholic married priest, Recife,

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  1. John O'Brien says:

    Excellent. I fully agree with you. Fair play to you for your love of Christ and for your genuine ministry. Like St Paul you earned your bread with your secular occupation, but you also devoted yourself wholeheartedly to your selfless ministry. You are a great priest.

  2. A very honest, courageous and humble sharing which I hope bears much fruit.

  3. Mike Kerrigan says:

    What a wonderful testimony, Brian!

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