A priest and his parishioners are facing an unholy war over the cleric’s decision to close an oratory near his parochial house.

And one baffled local has compared the situation to when Alex Ferguson stepped down as Manchester United manager.

Fr Patrick Donnelly the newly appointed parish priest of Enfield, County Meath, has told MEATHLIVE.NET, ‘I made the decision, and if there is any criticism of it I will take that on the chin, it was my call to do what I did and nobody else should be blamed.’

The situation first came to parishioners’ attention when the following notice was published in the parish newsletter on July 17th, “Enfield Oratory. The Oratory attached to the Presbytery in Enfield has provided a spiritual presence in the town of Enfield. Before covid, the weekday Mass was celebrated in it.

‘Due to Covid that is no longer possible and post covid it will probably be a few years before people will be comfortable gathering in a small space for Mass. Fr Patrick has decided, as an experiment, to move the Oratory to the top part of the parish meeting room located on the grounds of the Presbytery.

‘An appropriate and attractive prayer space will be created, and people will be welcome to drop in during the day for their prayer or light a candle. The old oratory will be converted into a parish office.’

However, that upset some locals who have formed the Save Our Oratory committee and taken to social media to outline their disappointment with what’s happened.

In a Facebook post, they said, ‘The Oratory was not moved to the parish meeting room but closed and the new parish office was set up in the old Oratory space. This has deeply upset many people for whom the Oratory was such a special place. All furniture, fittings, altar and tabernacle were removed from the Oratory and put into storage. The new Prayer Space (not an Oratory) was created at the top end of the meeting room. This new reflective place does not present a private, spiritual or reflective area for prayer. People want their Oratory reinstated. ‘

SOC spokesman Gene Foran claimed, ‘ The post pretty much sums up what we want, the committee want the old oratory reopened, in fairness to Fr Patrick he is always willing to talk to anyone about it but he cannot seem to grasp the strength of feeling over this.’

It seems as if the protestors haven’t a prayer of getting their way through as Fr Donnelly is convinced he made the right call.

He said, ‘I was only appointed here in July and I just felt we were not utilising the available space to its fullest.

‘I spoke to my predecessor about but ultimately I made the final decision, I didn’t involve any parish committee because I didn’t want to divide the parish if there is any criticism over this I’ll take it on the chin.’

One local source claimed the situation arose because people had become set in their ways.

They said,’ The last parish priest (Fr. Michael Whittaker) was here for 23 years and did things a certain way and everyone was happy with that so when the new man arrived and changed things it ruffled a few feathers.

‘When Alex Ferguson left Manchester United they struggled to replace him this is the same kind of scenario.’