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."

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
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.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines