Tuam Parish


The Homily of Fr. Eamonn Conway on the "Synodal Pathway".  Tuam Parish, September 9th/10th. 

 Professor Eamon Conway web When I was growing up here in Tuam in the 1960s, the town was a “mini-Vatican”. St Jarlath’s College had over a dozen priests. Both the Presentation and Mercy sisters had their own convents and schools. So had the Christian Brothers. The Bons Secours sisters ran the local ‘Grove’ hospital. The cathedral parish had several priests, in addition to the archbishop and his priest secretary. There is a story that one archbishop, evidently with good eyesight and possibly suffering from insomnia, would regularly ring up the Reverend Mother to reprimand her if he saw the lights in the nearby sisters’ convent bedrooms on too late at night!

Back then, Sunday masses in the cathedral were at 8.00, 9.00, 10.00, 11.15 and 12.30 pm. As a child, I remember members of the Order of Malta in the cathedral in their impressive uniforms serving as ushers at crowded Sunday masses, such was the need to make sure everyone was able to get a seat.

Those were the days. Or were they? Was that a better Church, a better time to be in the Church, than now? Did the Catholic community live according to the message of Christ better then, than now? These are things to think about and views will differ. Whatever any of us thinks, however, that era is past and unlikely to return whether we would wish it to or not.

For the foreseeable future, the Catholic community here in Tuam, and similarly elsewhere in Ireland, is likely to be a small body of committed Christians; a community that will, hopefully, be welcoming and invitational, humble, yet confident and outward looking. It will also be multi-cultural, welcoming Catholics from other countries who make Tuam their home.  This smaller faith community will live among a wider local community that will not be Catholic or at most only culturally or nominally such.

There will be many good people among those in that wider community who will not identify as Catholic; among them will be members of our own families and friends. We shouldn’t be disturbed by this or put out by it. The Holy Spirit blows where it wills. By following their consciences, by not wilfully shutting God out of their lives, we hope they will find God and God will find them. Meanwhile, the Catholic faith community will get on with its own mission of embodying the power and love of Christ for that wider community, through family life, through acts of kindness, charity, and self-sacrifice; hopefully too, through offering the wider community the option of a Catholic education in schools that are authentically Christian. Over time, the Catholic community’s witness to the joy and consolation of a vibrant personal relationship with Christ may win many converts from the wider community.

This massive change for the parish of Tuam has occurred in less than a lifetime. How we got here is a question for another day. The pressing question for now is how, in a very different world, the Church needs to change in order to remain faithful to its mission.

There is nothing exceptional about the situation in Tuam. The Catholic Church throughout Europe is in decline.  Over a hundred years ago, more than 60% of the world’s Catholics were to be found in Europe. Now, that figure is down to less than 17%. Catholicism, however, is thriving everywhere else: Africa, Asia, the Americas. In fact, globally, the number of Catholics is steadily increasing, keeping pace with the world population. The number of Catholics increased by 15 million alone from 2015 – 2018. This presents its own challenges: we cannot any longer impose a European way of being Church on the rest of the world, as we tended to in the past, especially when it is clearly not working. So how do we guarantee the unity of the Church in all these different cultures and contexts? And what, for instance, can the Church in Europe and Ireland learn from, say, Africa, India, or Latin America?

Most importantly, what is God asking of the Catholic Church in the twenty-first century? What can we learn by way of answer to this question not only from scripture and the Church’s Tradition, but also the lived experience of people who struggle as best they can to live the Gospel on a daily basis?

In order to address these and other questions, Pope Francis has initiated a worldwide renewal process which is set to be every much as significant as the Second Vatican Council that took place almost 60 years ago. It is called Synod 2021- 2024.  When organisations face a critical turning point, they often go back to their roots, to the basics. They look for ‘treasures old and new’ in their tradition that they can draw upon to help them be faithful to their mission in changed circumstances. And that is precisely what Pope Francis is doing by inviting us to become a synodal Church.

The word ‘synod’ means ‘walking together a common path’. There are a few steps along the path that, according to Pope Francis are key and I am going to mention here just three.

The first is to invert the pyramid. We tend to think of the Church as a hierarchical pyramid, with the Pope at the top and the ordinary Catholics, those in the pews, at the bottom. Yet if we are to consider who the most important people in the Church are, then the answer is the ordinary, everyday faithful People of God, not the bishops, priests or religious. Think, for instance of a sports club: who are its most important members? Is it the club’s organisers and officials, or is it those who actually play the sport? It’s those who play the sport, of course, without whom the club simply could not exist. Yet, in the Church, until now, we have tended to think of bishops, priests, religious as a kind of special elite caste of professional Catholics, with the ordinary People of God as somehow second class.

While we may lament the closing of convents and emptying of presbyteries, there is a saying attributed to St Teresa of Avila that “God writes straight with crooked lines.” The decline in vocations to priesthood and the religious life is forcing us to rediscover the reality that the Church was never meant to be divided into two classes, clergy and laity, the one subservient to the other, the one consisting of active agents, the other of passive recipients.  Pope Francis is reminding us that the most fundamental sacrament is baptism, which we all share, whether ordained, religious or lay.

Have you ever asked yourself what difference it has made to your life that you have received the sacraments of baptism and confirmation and that you regularly receive the Eucharist? Do you consider it as only to do with your personal holiness? Pope Francis wants us to take seriously something we have, until now, mostly paid lip-service to, namely, that every Christian has a role to play in working out and responding to what the Holy Spirit requires of the Church at a particular moment in its history.  And this is why, earlier this year, Pope Francis held one of the largest ever listening and consultation processes to take place in the history of humanity. Some of you may have participated in it. Reports from over 120 countries were eventually distilled in to one concise working document. It is this document that those of us – some 380 of us from every part of the world – will be reflecting upon during the month of October in Rome.

The second important step is to heal the many wounds within our Church and enable the Church to bring Christ’s healing to an increasingly troubled world. This task begins by reaching out to those the Church itself has harmed and hurt. The Church also urgently needs to address the fracturing of humanity through war and greed, and the increasing humanitarian crises caused by damage to ‘our common home’. As Pope Francis says, ‘the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor is one cry’. The energies of the entire people of God need to be harnessed if the Church is to bring healing to our troubled world.

The third important step along the path to a synodal Church is to embed deep listening, as well as courageous speaking, into the structures of the Church. We have been used to lay people being told to ‘pay up, pray up and shut up’. But this has been a very unfortunate aberration. God speaking to us in the ordinariness of people’s lives; in their workplace, in their family life, present wherever people struggle with their ‘joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties’, as Vatican II said. Pope Francis has made clear that bishops can only exercise their responsibility of governing and leading the Church if they listen attentively to and discern what God is saying amid life as it is lived by the entire People of God.  To this end, our meeting in Rome in October will propose structures to ensure that deep listening and courageous speaking will be an everyday reality in our Church in the future.

Our meeting in Rome this October is the first of two meetings to address these matters. A second meeting will take place in October 2024 after which the Synod will conclude. Between now and then I would encourage you to avail of any opportunities you may have to participate. And to keep the Synod participants at the General Assembly in your prayers.

Thank you


Photos from the Corpus Christi Procession 2023

The Sacraments of First Holy Communion & Confirmation 2024


Archbishop Francis will confirm the students from Trinity Primary School (Girls) on Wednesday May 15th at 12.00.


He will confirm the students from Trinity Primary School (Boys) on Wednesday May 15th at 2.30 pm.


Archbishop Francis will confirm the students from Gardenfield N.S., Gaelscoil Iarfhlatha and Educate Together on Thursday May 16th at 12.00 pm.


All students preparing for Confirmation are expected to take part in the Parish preparation programme.



First Holy Communion 2024


There will be three First Holy Communion ceremonies in the Cathedral: Saturday May 11th at 12.00 for the students from Gaelscoil Iarfhlatha and Gardenfield N.S.


Saturday May 25th at 12.00 am (first ceremony) for the students from Trinity Primary School

2.30 pm (second ceremony) for the students from Trinity Primary School and the students from Educate Together National School.


Brownesgrove N.S. on Sunday April 21st at 11.00 am in Cortoon Church


Lavally N.S. on Sunday April 28th at 11.00 am in Lavally Church


We look forward to working with the young people preparing for First Holy Communion in 2024. Baptism is the gateway to all the other sacraments.

Parents must have their children baptised before presenting them for their First Confession or First Holy Communion. 

All Students preparing for First Holy Communion are expected to take part in the parish preparation programme along with their families.

The Cathedral of the Assumption