Brendan O'Shaughnessy | October 14, 2019
Steve Warner, a renowned expert in liturgical music, realized how much he had to learn about the Irish Mass when he played a common hymn he proposed, only to be informed that the Irish consider it a Christmas song.
After forming the Notre Dame Folk Choir, he began leading it on pilgrimages to Ireland every few years starting in 1988. Yet in his new role as associate director of the Notre Dame-Newman Centre for Faith and Reason in Dublin, he quickly figured out that he would need a “huge cultural education.”
So he adopted for his ministry the philosophy of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland who was sold into slavery there following his kidnapping from Britain. After escaping six years later with a deepened Christian faith, Patrick wrote that he returned because he had a vision of the Irish people crying out to him: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”
In this spirit, Warner and Rev. William Dailey, C.S.C., are attempting to revive an urban Irish parish that faces the same challenges as modern Catholicism across the world. These challenges are impossible to miss in Ireland, which like other Western countries has seen a steep decline in Mass attendance and a corresponding rise in people who claim no religion. The hope is that top-notch music and preaching can act as a model of how to reignite the faith in this sacred place.
The center and church are named for the church’s founder, Blessed John Henry Newman, who will be canonized as a saint on Oct. 13.
The church opened in 1856 and has since been an iconic landmark in Dublin’s city center, a testament to Newman’s ambition to harmonize faith and reason. At the invitation of the Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin, Notre Dame agreed in 2016 to steward the historic church by establishing a center there designed to engage young professionals.
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