Fr Peter McVerry has said people are now asking for money to help them buy bread and milk – with some going without electricity.
The social justice campaigner was speaking as a new financial well-being report shows that one-in-three people are 'just getting by'.
The CCPC report says the figure rises to over 50% among people with only a primary education or less.
One-in-eight say they can only cover their costs for a month or less in the event of an income shock.
Lone parents and people in shared homes are among the least likely to have significant financial buffers in place.
While 86% of households save, men are more likely to engage in higher-risk saving - such as the purchase of stocks and shares or investing in crypto-assets.
Fr McVerry told Newstalk Breakfast he receives a lot of requests for help.
"I live in an area with a lot of low-income families, and I would say many of them couldn't even get through three days if there was an income shock," he said.
"I got a lot of requests for help.
"The requests I get, to be honest, are €2 for the bus into town - otherwise they're going to have to walk into town.
"I get a request for maybe €3 or €4 to get prescriptions out of the chemist.
"On a medical card, that's going to cost €1.50 per item - they need their medication [and] they don't get paid, maybe, for three or four days.
"I get requests for €3 and €4 for bread and milk.
"There are a lot of families who are struggling just to provide what the rest of us take for granted".
'People are going without electricity'
Fr McVerry said while many people are struggling, others are finding it harder.
"The surveys cover a range of different income brackets," he said.
"Certainly, some of what I was reading in that survey didn't resonate with me at all.
"People couldn't survive a couple of days if their welfare was cut or if they lost their jobs.
"People are going without electricity... they're coming to me to ask me to help them top-up their electricity".
Fr McVerry said there are also 'the bigger items' to consider.
"If you have a tooth that needs to be extracted, it's almost impossible to get a medical card dentist today," he said.
"In one case I helped somebody to pay €340 to get a wisdom tooth extracted when he was in an awful lot of pain.
"If somebody has to go to the doctor, and they don't have medical card or their medical card has run out, you're talking of another €100 to go to the doctor and get a prescription.
"They just don't have that," he added.
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