Dublin Live [Dublin, Ireland]
March 21, 2022
By Dan Grennan
It wasn’t until Fr David Vard reluctantly took a trip to France to help the sick and vulnerable get a blessing at the Lourdes Baths that the Newbridge native saw another side of Catholicism
Ireland’s youngest priest has opened up on his journey to the priesthood despite the numerous scandals that engulfed the Catholic Church.
The mother and baby homes, the Tuam babies scandal, and the global child abuse revelations were all present as Fr David Vard went through his formative years.
The barrage of “bad news” even forced him out of the church after making his confirmation.
Fr Vard, Ireland’s youngest priest at 30 years of age, told The Tommy Tiernan Show he left the church as a youngster because he “didn’t want anything to do with it”; due to the numerous scandals that engulfed it
It wasn’t until he reluctantly took a trip to France to help the sick and vulnerable get a blessing at the Lourdes Baths that the Newbridge native saw another side of Catholicism.
“I was nearly kicked out from transition year for not making enough effort. I said let’s do it and I said yes to everything. My principle asked me to go to Lourdes and my mantra of saying yes to everything was tested.”
He added: “Everything I thought I knew about the church which was the big bad church was really tested in Lourdes. Because I encountered people who were so compassionate.”
“People who really cared for me and I wasn’t there looking for compassion and they were carting for people who were really sick.”
That trip started a conversation in Fr Vard about faith that inspired him to join the priesthood.
He said: “It was like falling in love. I had that period of 16-17 of learning about faith and falling in love with God and the church and then entering at 18 and continuing that in a deeper way.”
“I realised this God is good and this God loves me and this God wants me to be a soldier in this world for him and falling in love with that idea.”
It isn’t all been plain sailing for Fr Vard though, as he often gets shouted at on the street and abused by strangers.
Every now and then I get shouted at in the street and people tell me to go away in not so polite ways and that’s fine. People might shout paedophile at me.”
However, one incident stuck with Fr Vard.
He recalls: “I was walking with my nephew once, holding his hand and someone came up and said, ‘are you okay’ to my nephew. I was wearing a collar. ‘Are you okay with this man’. That hurt.”
The Portlaoise-based priest is working to change the view much of the public have of the Catholic Church.
He said: “There is a dark cloud in Ireland over the church because we have a history. And that dark cloud has covered everything – anything that was ever good done by good people who never did anything wrong beyond the normal.”
“The sins of a few have darkened the goodness of a lot.
“That is unfortunate and that is what we need to work against. We need to say we are good, we do love you and we do want to help you and that is what I hope I stand for.”