IRELAND'S newest cleric has hailed his first week as a priest as "the best of my life".
Fr Damien Lynch (26) -- who is the fourth youngest priest in Ireland -- was ordained in Ballyvourney, Co Cork, last Sunday. He has now been assigned to Fermoy parish in the Diocese of Cloyne though he won't take up duties for several weeks.
"The past week has been absolutely incredible -- it wasn't just my ordination but celebrating my first Mass and then having the community throw a party for me," Fr Damien said.
The Ballyvourney and Cuil Aodha parish staged a special party in Fr Damien's honour. His first Mass was celebrated in Seipeal Chuil Aodha -- with more than 300 people packed into the church and almost 200 more standing outside.
Fr Damien said he never once reconsidered his determination to be a priest despite the scandals that have rocked the church in Ireland for the past decade.
His new diocese still lacks a bishop after Dr John Magee resigned before the publication of the Cloyne Report into how clerical abuse allegations were handled.
"Quite clearly some very significant human mistakes were made on the part of the church authorities," he said. "But it never altered my faith or trust in God and his church. I always wanted to be a priest. That never changed for a moment."