Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

21.24 9 Jul 2020


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For this week's Thursday interview, Ivan Yates was joined by the well-known Catholic priest and broadcaster Fr Brian D'Arcy.

'Fr Brian' discussed faith, the Catholic Church, his time as the unofficial 'chaplain' of the showband scene, and his memories of being a priest during the Troubles.

You can listen to the full interview below:

'My party piece was One Day At A Time, Sweet Jesus' - The Thursday Interview with Fr Brian D'Arcy

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

The 75-year-old Passionist priest told Ivan he has stepped back from some of his responsibilities in recent years.

He explained: "I belong to an order. Until two or three years ago, I was a superior in a monastery in Enniskillen - and that meant you had full pastoral duties.

"Today, I'm not a superior any more for the first time in really 50 years of priesthood - I stepped back from that completely."

However, he still says eight or nine masses per week.

He also suggested many of his disagreements with the Catholic Church are on things that are "not essential to the Catholic Church", such as married clergy and women priests.

He argued: "I'm more interested in God-made rules than man-made rules.

"Maybe if we had a few more rebel bishops, we'd have a more relevant church."

Most of his ministry is now in visiting the sick and dying in hospitals - although he has not been able to visit hospitals in recent months due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Reflecting on Ireland during the Troubles, he recalled travelling from Dublin to Northern Ireland after Bloody Sunday to attend the funerals of those killed - describing it as a day he won't forget "until the day I die".

Fr D'Arcy noted it drove him "insane" when people in Dublin said "you're all the same" up in Northern Ireland.

He observed: "I used to say we're not all the same - no more than you're all the same down here."

Joe Dolan and Brendan Grace

Fr D'Arcy became well-known in the 1960s and 70s for his involvement with the showband scene, often hearing confessions at dancehalls.

He recalled: "I knew that once I was ordained, the studies I had done were absolutely a detriment to being a good priest after that - they were all in Latin... all pre Vatican II.

"I learned new theology, read new theology... went to America twice so I would get degrees in new theology.

"The 60s had come, and you could not convert the world from a monastery cell. You had to be in it."

He said he loved the music, and that going to school in Omagh meant many bands on the circuit came from the town anyway.

However, he stressed that he could barely sing himself, observing: "I would attempt a song in a car, but only that.

"My party piece was One Day At A Time, Sweet Jesus... and if you're not careful I'll sing it."

He recalled many of the characters he met during his time on the circuit - with Joe Dolan "a great friend of mine from right in the early days".

He described Brendan Grace as "the funniest man you ever met, and one of the most religious".

Fr D'Arcy said many of those on the scene would still call him "Fr Brian", despite him being happy with just 'Brian'.

However, many of the celebrities and performers still saw him as a confidante - asking about everything from recording recommendations to advice on marriage.

He said: "They made me their chaplain - I didn't become their chaplain... it evolved organically.

"I've never [had] alcohol, and one [of the reasons] is there's a lot of secrets in my head... you guard them with your life."


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