Fr Paddy O’Kane said many children never return to Mass the following Sunday

A priest has criticised parents who reduce their child’s First Communion to an “orgy of materialism with miniature brides”, claiming many children never return to Mass the following Sunday.

Fr Paddy O’Kane, parish priest for Ballymagroarty in the diocese of Derry, said some families prepared their child for First Communion simply “because everyone else is doing it”.

“Perhaps [it] is a harmless tradition keeping them in a club which for all its flaws, they’d rather remain part of,” he said. “Or they don’t want their child singled out as different. Or they just want to throw a party.

“Then it’s reduced to an orgy of sentimentality and materialism with miniature brides and bouncy castles and bursting bank accounts.”

Writing on his parish website, Fr O’Kane reminded parents that when their child was baptised, they “promised to bring him/her up in the practice of the faith”.

“That promise will only be kept if this is not a ‘once off’ occasion but the beginning of a new stage in his/her faith journey. Simply put, you must bring him/her to back to Mass again every weekend after his/her First Communion.”

He also said he expected a “reverential silent” during Mass. “It is not acceptable to engage in conversation at any time but most of all at Holy Communion,” he wrote.

“Children are like blotting paper – they soak up all they see and hear!” he concluded.

In 2015, Fr O’Kane called for an end to the school “production line” of preparing children for First Communion only to see them never return. He said that of 121 children who had recently made their First Communion at his parish, just 20 returned the following Sunday.

He called the figures “profoundly disappointing”.