Cold Call: Jack O'Sullivan rings Frances Meigh

I COULDN'T phone Frances Meigh until this week. She has been engaged for the past fortnight with God on a hermitic retreat. And a conference call was out of the question. Then on Monday she was ordained the Catholic church's first woman priest (at least, in modern times).

For Rome, the event was embarrassing, only slightly less disturbing than if a long-haired, bearded man approached St Peter's on a donkey. The Pope is not amused by the frocking of Frances Meigh.

What, I wonder, should I call this ground-breaking cleric? "Oh, I rather like being called `Father'," explains the 67-year-old mother of three. She has a light, joyful voice you imagine angels might use if you could ring them up. "To me, `Father' is what a Catholic priest has always been called. But the bishop says I should use `Mother' as a title."

So Mother Frances it is. Wouldn't it be a mistake in any case, I suggest, to follow male traditions? Like all male clergy, she would have to play golf on Monday afternoons.

"Golf," comes a shriek down the phone. "I hate golf. My father played and I never went near him while he did it. No, I'm not going to learn how to play. And I'm certainly not having a golf club on my coffin.

"All the golf that goes on around here has set my teeth on edge in the diocese for years. I'm a hermit, so I don't have holidays. If I took a day off, I wouldn't feel that I had a vocation."

I wonder whether it would have helped her cause if Jesus had been a woman? "No," she says definitely. "I am perfectly satisfied with him as he is. I'm not a feminist. I don't agree with changing Biblical language, swapping `her' for `him'. As St Paul says, `there is no male or female in heaven'." What about God, the grey-bearded old gent? "I see God as a solid stream of gold. Brilliant, like a cloud burst."

But the priesthood seems very male, I say. Had she watched Father Ted? "Oh, yes. It's very funny. I'd say whoever wrote it had a good understanding of the priesthood."

Would there be a Mrs Doyle in her life, a housekeeper constantly pressing cups of tea upon her? "No, no," says Mother Frances. "Of course, it would be lovely to be waited upon. But if you have a housekeeper, you have to eat when you are told. I like to be alone."

Mother Frances is English but was ordained by a rebel Catholic bishop in the Irish village of Omeath, Co Louth and will in future celebrate Mass at the local church.

I've interrupted her reciting her "Office", a set of prayers taking about 90 minutes. But she is good humoured. We chat about whether she is a fast Mass-sayer(she starts with a canter and gets into a gallop around the Eucharist prayer). We discuss how useful plastic detergent bottles are for making dog collars. Does she really feel like a priest now?

"It gradually takes hold of you," she says. "I remember coming back on the plane. There was a bump over the Irish Sea and I worried what would I do if we crashed. How would I reach everyone?

"Then there was second bump and I realised I would have to be quick with a general absolution, like you can give on a battlefield, because I might not last long. But we landed safely. It was nerves, like when you first have a baby and you want to do everything as well as you possibly can."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea