Brian Eyre: Married life – A married priest speaks about his experience

If you read the conclusions of the many different Synodal meetings in various dioceses in Ireland and countries in Europe all speak of a change that may come in the Latin Rite with regards to the question of married priests. Most Synodal meetings speak about married priests in the future but remember the future needs to be prepared for.

I spent nine happy years in the seminary but it did not prepare me for married life that I took on later. In the seminary we had wonderful professors who taught us philosophy and theology.

After ordination I went to Brazil as a missionary priest and worked in four different parishes. In three of these parishes I lived in the parish house so I had no rent to pay and I didn’t have to buy a fridge, a stove, pots and pans, cups and saucers, knives and forks, a bed and furniture. In the fourth parish I decided not to live in the parish house and so I rented a small house among the people.

I came back to Ireland for four months to pray about getting married and came to the decision that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. My future wife likewise back in Brazil was also praying and she too wanted to spend the rest of her life with me. So we got married, two green horns. First of all, we both had to look for jobs to have money to rent a house  and set up a home. She was more qualified than me with a degree in Biology so she got a job in a college teaching this subject. I too went into the teaching profession as a teacher of English as a foreign language, I could speak English but had no experience in teaching it to foreigners so I had to get qualified in this area.

Conclusion. Future priests need more than just philosophy and theology to survive as some of them may get married and need to have experience in a secular profession.

Then our first child came along, a little girl and just like my brother and sisters our life was turned upside down looking after this tiny little creature. So from changing nappies to making bottles and getting very little sleep at night we had to learn from the baby how to adapt our comfortable life to this new reality. Later on, our second child arrived, a three-months old baby boy who we adopted and now there was double the amount of nappies to be changed and bottles to be prepared and it was goodbye to a peaceful night’s sleep.

As a single woman, my wife was very active doing pastoral work and so when we got married we continued doing pastoral work but now together. This was a wonderful experience for me to prepare our pastoral work together and to go out  to the different communities and do pastoral work and then later to reflect on this work. In the past as a celibate priest  I did most of my pastoral work with women as is the case in most parishes for where would the church be without the collaboration of women? However, it was and is different doing pastoral work with your wife. To see the way she approaches pastoral problems is very good for me, who had been trained in the seminary to work alone.

I will never forget the advice my Bishop gave to all the priests at the clergy meeting when he said: “If you marry choose well” (“Se casar escolha bem”).

There are many jokes told about mothers-in-law. I was very lucky to have had a lovely mother-in-law. I got on well with her, and she and my father-in-law were a great help to us. Nowadays, my wife and I help our daughter and son-in-law with their two little boys, so from collecting them from school, playing with them, taking care of them at times when their parents are working we have discovered a new pastoral mission. Right at this moment our daughter and her husband are sick with Covid 19 and so we are needed more than ever but even so, we still have time for pastoral work.

I was happy as a celibate priest, I am happy now as a married priest except that it is a different ball game so let’s not get too romantic about priests getting married. I often think back to the love and sacrifice that my parents gave to me and my brother and sisters, and that is part of married life.

I have been married now for 38 years. Marriage has not lessened the love I have for the Church and pastoral work.

Brian  Eyre 1-7-2022 

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