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Right Bishop Denis Dinneen and Rev. Canon Elena Aloysius of the Celtic Community Church in their apartment in Mallow. Picture Dan Linehan
Right Bishop Denis Dinneen and Rev. Canon Elena Aloysius of the Celtic Community Church in their apartment in Mallow. Picture Dan Linehan

Husband and wife transform home into a 'Church'

A COUPLE made up of a bishop and vicar are bringing religious devotion to new heights after transforming their rented apartment into a church.

Bishop Denis Dineen, who heads the Celtic Community Church in Ireland-an organisation originally founded by Saint Patrick, Saint Columba and other Celtic saints- devised the idea with his wife Vicar Elena Aloysius. Now 72 years old, the Mallow resident found religion later in life and is hoping his faith will serve as a beacon to those in dire straits.

Vicar Aloysius from Switzerland, who joined the order four years ago at just 18 years old, described their unconventional North Cork abode.

“If you walk into our home it looks like a monastery," she said. "The first thing you'll see are holy pictures everywhere and a bible on the table.

It's effectively a mini church with an altar, flowers and statues. We have a couple of people who come to us regularly but a lot of our masses are streamed online as well. Over time we hope to build our community and eventually acquire a bigger chapel.” She opened up about home life and the months leading up to their marriage last February.

“Our church is connected all over the world so it was suggested that I travel to Ireland in order for Bishop Denis and I to work together. My boss at the time didn't believe I would make it a month. For most of the beginning we would just sit with a homeless person at the side of the street. Our lifestyle is very strict. We do the sacraments, pray, and don't own any properties. Neither of us own a car because we feel it brings us away from the people. We meet so many people through public transport and get all kinds of reactions."

She recalled their "frills" wedding ceremony.

“We try to keep our lives very simple and get along very well.Bishop Denis and I had had a civil ceremony for our wedding before blessing the rings at our own chapel. Our lives are not romantic. My main concentration is the priesthood as I've been living a vow of chastity since the age of 18 years old. As husband and wife we are good companions and do everything together. We definitely have a different relationship to most married couples.

Vicar Aloysius and husband Bishop Dineen favour helping the homeless over date nights.

“We travel on foot armed with backpacks filled with sandwiches and soup. Much of our time is spent going to grocery stores and asking for things we can give to the poor. I've never gone out at night or been in a pub or club. Even in my teenage years I spent my free time serving at mass.” The 22-year-old said the priesthood leaves little time for rearing children.

“I've never wanted children as the priesthood is my main focus. Combining family life with this is said to be very difficult.” Elena confessed to being hit by criticism online on numerous occasions.

“As a female priest I sometimes get hit over the head on social media but people are normally very responsive when you meet them in person.”