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Irish continue to splash out on first Communions

Sarah Mac Donald

IRISH PARENTSare spending almost €1,000 (£879) on their child’s first Holy Communion, according to a new survey, despite results showing the average spending by a family on the day is down 17 per cent compared with that of two years ago due to difficulties in the Irish economy.

Carried out by polling company Millward Brown Lansdowne for Ulster Bank, the results of the survey show that the most expensive items of the day are the First Communion outfits, which now average €213 (£188), although again these are down by a third from two years ago. Spending on make-up, fake tan and hair for girls fell by 25 per cent to €38 (£34). Additional costs linked to bouncy castles, limousines and other celebrations have fallen to €382 (£337). Responding to the survey’s findings, the

Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) expressed concern that some families are shelving energy payments and borrowing from moneylenders

in order to pay for the occasion. John Monaghan, SVP national vice president, said the organisation had appealed to the country’s bishops to help bring some “sanity” back into the situation, particularly because so many families could not afford the current costs. He warned that the present situation was “taking away from the sacrament” and was more about “showbusiness”. A leading Jesuit social justice campaigner has described the “whole phenomenon of First Communion” as “a fiasco” and has called for it to be abolished to reduce the pressure on parents to cover “exorbitant” costs. Fr Peter McVerry told The Tablet that the

Church needed to “abolish First Communion at seven and make it much later in a child’s life”. He also called for Confirmation to be pushed back to the age of 15 or 16. “We really have to look at some very radical ways of reducing the pressure on parents over Communion and Confirmation.” Up to 60,000 children annually make their First Communion in Ireland.

Catholic gap-year programmes struggling

CATHOLIC GAP-YEARorganisations are suf- fering from a dearth of applications for their programmes this year with young people opt- ing to go straight to university in order to avoid the rise in tuition fees next year, writes Catherine Prescott. “We’ve had no applications at all from ‘gap- pers’ this year. They all want to go to university straight away to avoid the fees,” says Fr Tim Curtis of Jesuit Missions, who usually sends pre-university students on placements in Africa, Asia and South America. At Bosco Volunteer Action (Bova), which places volunteers in Salesian communities around the world, only one 18-year-old has registered for its overseas programme for September. “I would expect more,” says James Trewby, Bova’s development officer. The lack of applications from students means Catholic programmes must appeal to

■The Bishop Emeritus of Hexham and Newcastle, Ambrose Griffiths OSB, has died aged 82, writes Christopher Lamb. A Benedictine monk and former Abbot of Ampleforth, Bishop Griffiths was known for his work with young people and helped found the Youth Village, a centre for youth ministry for the diocese. The bishop, who served in Hexham and

Newcastle from 1992 to 2004 and was described as “the bishop who says ‘yes’”, called for more to be done by the Church to welcome divorced people, telling The Tablet in an interview this was necessary “because

34 | THE TABLET | 18 June 2011

new age groups in order to fulfil their com- mitment to their projects, which rely on volunteers to operate. “We’ve had to extend our application dead- lines to fill our programme this year,” says Fr Curtis. “We’re recruiting more recent gradu- ates, people who want a career break and those taking early retirement.”

At the same time, Catholic volunteering organisations working in Britain are filling empty places with recent graduates eager for social-work experience but unable to find paid work. “Good, capable, dedicated graduates are applying for our programme because there are no jobs for them any more,” says Marie Pattison, volunteer coordinator at the Jesuit Volunteering Community, based in Manchester. “But they are more employable once they have a year of experience with us behind them.”

they are in need”. He also said that the question of married priests should be “thoroughly discussed” by the Church and was keen to emphasise a voice for lay people in the running of the diocese. Born Michael Griffiths, he was educated

at Ampleforth and he joined the monastic community in 1950 after studying natural sciences at Balliol College, Oxford. He became abbot in 1976, succeeding

Cardinal Basil Hume, later becoming parish priest of St Mary’s Leyland, Lancashire. After retiring as bishop, he returned to Leyland to serve in the parish.


The Special Place of the Greeks Greece has been the pilot country in mak- ing a special arrangement with the Common Market, of a kind which British negotiators will have constantly before them. The Greeks have a tradition of suc- cessful commercial negotiations, and they obtained from the Six [members countries of the Common Market] last autumn a wide range of concession: first that Greece may have 22 years to get rid of her tariffs against the Six, more than twice the time they are allowing each other, and then a special promise from France and Italy to take more Greek tobacco, while the other countries of the Six agreed to halve their tariffs. The Greek interest in joining the Six was financial rather than political … It is the hope of a large loan from the Six, which would make the Greek market more valuable by increasing production and consumption, which was the great attrac- tion, and although Greek bonds are a stagnant and melancholy feature of the world’s bourses, the Six agreed in principle to a loan of some £50m. On the other hand, the Italians protested very vigorously against the Greek fruit and wine coming into the Common Market, which Italy hopes to supply in even bigger quantities. The Tablet, 17 June 1961


St Joseph’s Foreign Missionary Society Council Meeting Since the last meeting of our Council the Spiritual Returns from most of our mis- sions have come in, and they have been printed in full in the Annual Report of the society …We give here a short résumé of the number of the baptisms, not indeed in any spirit of pride and self-complacency, but simply to supply a ready answer to the jibe that one hears sometimes, even from pious people, “what good do our missions to the heathen do?” Now, if salvation of one single soul is of more value than the whole material world, it does not require very strong faith to be convinced that the Sacred Heart of Our Lord is really and truly gratified at the thousands of souls that saved through the instrumentality of our Missionary Society … The following are the numbers [of baptisms]:

Madras and districts 2,645 Upper, Nile, Uganda 3,247 Borneo

Maori Missions, New Zealand Belgian Congo Philippines Total:

379 458

899 6,577 14,205 The Tablet, 17 June 1911

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