My Weekend: I will be doing my best to make the Christmas Mass special for everyone...

Fr James McSweeney tells us how he spends his weekends - in particular this Christmas weekend 
My Weekend: I will be doing my best to make the Christmas Mass special for everyone...

A BIG WEEKEND IN THE CHURCH CALENDAR: Fr James McSweeney will be celebrating Christmas masses, but also spending precious time with family this weekend.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work:

My name is Fr. James McSweeney. I’m from Millstreet, Co.Cork and I’m a priest in the Diocese of Cork & Ross. My mum Nora lives in Millstreet which is where I go each weekend and I have two brothers Denis and Gerard, two sisters Teresa and Kathryn and five nieces and nephews, Daniel, Aoife, Peter, Ella and Rian. Family is very important to me.

I am currently chaplain in Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí (Bantry Community College) and I help in Bantry and Muintir Bhaire parishes each Sunday. Working with young people for the past  14 years has been a great privilege and blessing. Previous to Bantry I was chaplain in Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig. Working in a school setting as a chaplain is a truly priviledge role. There is no one day the same and so many of our young people are open to spirituality and searching for answers to the bigger questions. They certainly keep me young in spirit too!

Working and living in West Cork has to be experienced. After many years in the city, the first thing I noticed in Bantry was how much slower the pace of life was. This lovely relaxed pace to life is so refreshing and I also noticed early on that all the essentials still got done!

How will you be spending today, Christmas Eve

My Christmas Eve morning will be back home in Millstreet. It will be nice and relaxed with my mother Nora. After lunch I will be heading south to Bantry to get ready for all the Masses. Each year this is always such a special occasion. Unfortunately, the experience will again be different this year with restrictions and reduced numbers. Despite this, I will be doing my best to make the Christmas Mass special for everyone including those watching online as well.

Tell us how you will spend Christmas Day - talk us through from morning until evening.

Christmas morning Masses this year for me will be in Coomhola and Kealkill. The churches in these areas are part of Bantry Parish. We have one of the biggest parish geographical areas in our Diocese. There is always such a lovely atmosphere at Mass on Christmas morning. Yes it will be different this year with reduced numbers but still special. Once my last Mass is over on Christmas Day I will head back up to Millstreet where I will be joining my brother Gerard and family for the Christmas dinner. It is from here on that I can properly relax, unwind and take it easy after a very busy morning.

How will you spend St Stephen's Day..

As Stephen’s Day is Sunday this year, it means I am back on the road for Masses again. 

I will be saying Masses in Durrus and Kilcrohane on that day. Even on a winters day the views and scenery out on the Sheep’s Head peninsula are just stunning. No wonder I keep calling the place ‘Heaven on Earth’.

Back to speaking about weekends in general:

Lie ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

All my weekends are the very same It’s a lie in on Saturday morning and definitely up early on a Sunday.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

As I work in school during the week and I’m out in the parishes on Sunday, Saturday is the one day of the week and weekend that I try and keep totally free. Thankfully Sunday afternoons are relaxing enough too!

Working in a secondary school has been challenging during the past two years since Covid arrived. But the return of sport since September has been a major blessing for our young people and thankfully so far everyone is staying safe as best we can. 

Sunday Masses are always just two. There isn’t time or the energy to manage a third, especially when you put your heart and soul into each one. With the Covid lockdowns saying Mass on your own, even with the live streaming was just awful. You missed the responses, missed the connection with people and it felt empty. Covid has definitely impacted on Church communities and attendance. Like so many other organisations it is about taking it one day at a time for now.

If money was no object where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

My family are a fabulous support to me so I would head back to Killarney with them. It’s a great place to go and relax, lots of things to do and nothing like keeping in touch with our very friendly Kerry neighbours!

Is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

Every morning I do the Béicin walk, which is a pedestrian walkway out by Bantry Bay seafront and looking across at Whiddy Island. The views are stunning, there is no traffic and it becomes my prayer moment as I start a new day.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

I always find myself connecting with family at the weekends. It is good to check in with everyone during these challenging times that is Covid.

LOVES SPENDING TIME WITH FAMILY: Fr James McSweeney's niece Ella, who is learning the craft of beekeeping and must possibly be the youngest beekeeper in Cork, aged just four and a half.
LOVES SPENDING TIME WITH FAMILY: Fr James McSweeney's niece Ella, who is learning the craft of beekeeping and must possibly be the youngest beekeeper in Cork, aged just four and a half.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

Photography is something I enjoy and my camera is never too far from me. I update my website daily on with some photo and information relevant for that day. I’m also a beekeeper for many years. 

So while there is little beekeeping to be done at this time of year, the planning for next year is already in full swing!

We have so many places to eat out in Cork - where are your go to spots for coffee/ lunch/ special meal?

My favourite spot to go in Cork is Nash 19, always have and always will!!

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

During the winter months it has been watching Ireland's Fittest Family and then switching over for the Strictly Come Dancing results!

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?


Anything else you are up to right now...

I am looking forward to some quiet and down time over the Christmas. We all need to rest and recharge at this time of year. I hope our readers get the chance too. Happy Christmas and every blessing for the New Year.

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