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Parishishioners are with me on journey says singing priest

By editor - 30 June, 2013

A member of the singing sensation, The Priests, says that the people of his two parishes are “very much part of the journey” and when he sings, he brings them with him.

A member of the singing sensation, The Priests, says that the people of his two parishes are “very much part of the journey” and when he sings,  he brings them with him.

Fr Martin O’Hagan is part of the internationally acclaimed classical music group called the Priests, made up of three Catholic priests from Northern Ireland – Fr Martin, his brother Fr Eugene and Fr David Delargy.  The group had been singing together since they were school boys, but they hit the headlines in 2008 when they were signed up by Sony BMG and produced an album that sold millions.

Speaking to CatholicIreland from his parish of Newtownards and Comber, Fr Martin compared living his ‘double life’ as parish priest and classical singer to “spinning  a dinner set –  so many things have to be put in place” but it was his parishioners and his team that  made it all possible.

“We’re juggling all the time. We’ve got a little more used to that but it’s very beneficial.”

Parishioners from the small parish of Comber are very supportive to Fr Martin in his music ministry. 

“He’s been given a talent and he needs to use that talent,” Brenda Cafolla, a parishioner from the tiny parish of Comber told CatholicIreland.  “We have a lot of negativity about priests and he’s promoting something positive about priests, he’s spreading his beautiful voice, throughout the world,”   

Last week the trio took Malta by storm, during their first performance on the island.  In a sell out concert marking the Year of Faith, the three men sang a repertoire of Sacred music, like Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus, as well as songs by The Beatles, contemporary and classic Irish songs and some original compositions.  They were joined by Maltese soprano Gillian Zammit and a nine piece orchestra. 

Before the concert they visited the archbishop of Malta, Archbishop Paul Cremona who commented on the importance of singing in praying to and glorifying God.

Questioned about how hard it was to come down to earth after a concert, Fr Martin told CatholicIreland that he was now able to pick up the pieces of parish life very quickly.  “You’ve been out. You’ve had a little bit of a high as regards the concert itself and its been marvellous, but I always keep  in the back of my mind, ‘Now Martin you are going back to parish life  and you’re dealing with everyday issues,’  and I can assure you that you do pick up the threads very quickly and the everyday important issues, whether it’s a family that has been bereaved,  to organising a baptism to paying the bills, to administration, to the schools  – you get back into the rhythm very quickly.”

So far the men have sung to over 100,000 people in concerts all over the world and raised millions of euro for charities – for schools in Uganda and Cambodia, for street children in Thailand and for local charities like Simon and Sightsavers in Ireland.

In July the Priests will be performing at  the Vatican, and in August they have a concert in Belgium.  Their main tour for 2013 will be to the US and Canada  from late October to early December, and over Christmas they will play a concert or two in Ireland.

While he’s away, Fr Martin tries to organise a priest to say mass and his parish of Newtownards and Comber goes ahead. “We miss him when he’s away but when he’s here he gives 100%,” said Brenda Cafolla. Another parishioner, Mary Anne McKee agreed. “He’s away at concerts. He has to do what he enjoys as well. It’s fantastic for the parish too.”

by Susan Gately

Picture shows the Priests.  Left to right: Fr David Delargy, Fr Eugene O’Hagan, Fr Martin O’Hagan.