Mayo is the Irish Republic’s third largest county and well known for its beautiful scenery, rolling hills and rugged coast line. The county is home to Ireland’s ‘holy mountain’ and its premier Marian shrine.
According to tradition, the mountain just outside Westport is where Saint Patrick spent 40 days and nights fasting before evangelising the region. It is also said that from here he cast out all the snakes of Ireland!
The sleepy village of Knock swiftly rose to fame in 1879 when fourteen people claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary on the gable of the local church wall. Today Knock is something of a Catholic Mecca, with its own international airport.
Over the last thirty years, Mayo, like the rest of Ireland, has undergone considerable change. Largely due to endless reports of child abuse, the days of Roman Catholic control of the state are gone. Irish people have begun to choose their own moral and spiritual directions.
While this has led to gains for the gospel, the losses have also been substantial. Ireland is now nearly a post-Catholic country. Most people follow an à-la-carte, pick-and-mix religion, yet still doggedly claim to be Catholic. For others, religion is either a subject of complete indifference or a scapegoat for all the present woes.
The rise of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy has contributed significantly to changes within Irish society over recent decades. Poverty seemed to have been left behind in the rapid economic expansion. But the recent financial collapse has brought with it uncertainty, fear and anxiety. One can only wonder how this will affect the cause of the gospel.
Regardless of the obstacles, it has pleased the Lord to work in Ireland. The happy result is that gospel churches are now found in towns where this was only a dream fifty years ago.
However, most gospel work has centred on eastern Ireland, with 84 per cent of full-time Christian workers labouring in this region (54 per cent in the Dublin area). This leaves the remaining few per cent for the five counties making up the western region of Connaught.
Calvary Mission was set up in 1994 by Paudge Mulvihill in an effort to redress this imbalance between east and west. Its goals are to evangelise, disciple new converts, train church leaders and plant self-governing churches. The mission is part of Aontas (Association of Irish Evangelical Churches) and partners with Unevangelised Fields Mission Worldwide.
It comprises eight people from different evangelical backgrounds. These engage in such ministries as door-to-door visitation, children’s clubs, school’s work, special interest meetings, street evangelism, running a bookshop and just about anything else we can think of to get the gospel out!
However, Mayo is a big place and one of our greatest needs is for more people to live as missionaries in the main centres of population. To date, we have had the joy of seeing a church established in Westport, with its own leadership and membership roll. One of our burdens is to provide this church with suitable premises.
In another town, Claremorris, we have a weekly Bible study. The work there is fragile, but we trust that in time it may become a church plant too. What County Mayo needs more than anything else is a people grounded in the glorious truths of the gospel and filled with God’s Spirit.
We need prayer warriors who will stand with us in the battle. And it is a battle; every step forward seems to require two steps backwards. Consider the following story. A young woman comes to faith; we have the joy of baptising her. Her mother, however, is furious at her decision and douses her with ‘holy water’; her older brother takes her aside for a quiet chat about her first allegiance being to her family. The result is that she is never seen again in the fellowship. More examples could be given.
If you would like to be a part of Calvary Mission’s ministry, we warmly invite you to contact us for information and our regular prayer letter.
(contact Paudge Mulvihill at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or UFM Worldwide, 145 Faringdon Road, Swindon, SN1 5DL)