Singing priests: it's harder than ever to juggle our duties and play to the world
Classical music sensations The Priests have admitted they are finding it increasingly difficult to combine the demands of the music business with their pastoral duties.
The multi-platinum selling trio – Fr David Delargy and brothers Fr Eugene and Fr Martin O'Hagan – are in the unusual position of being full-time clergymen in Northern Ireland as well as global musical icons.
Fr O'Hagan, from Claudy in Co Londonderry, said fulfilling duties in his parish of Newtownards and Comber has become even harder, as demands grow for the middle-aged clerics to record new material and stage concerts across the world.
He said the fact that the numbers entering the priesthood is in constant decline makes it even more difficult to keep on top of commitments in the parish.
He said: "It's very challenging for us to combine our roles as priests with the music business, particularly because the clergy is getting smaller. There are less priests around to stand in for us when we're away, so we have to make sure our diaries are as well organised as possible.
"We're constantly juggling, but luckily we're been helped out by a number of retired priests who've stepped in to help us when we're away."
However demanding their pastoral duties become, one date the talented trio won't be missing is a concert they've been asked to give to Pope Francis in the Vatican in July.
It will be the first time The Priests have performed in the tiny state since they sang as student priests to the Pope John Paul II. They also sang for Pope Benedict at London's Hyde Park less than three years ago during the previous Pontiff's historic visit to the UK.
Fr O'Hagan (50) said the upcoming concert, which will take place in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall, will be the trio's most important concert to date.
He said: "It's such a huge honour. We're in Rome in July for a four-day pilgrimage for seminarians and we've been asked to sing in the Vatican"
The Priests' next major tour will be to the US in October – a country where they have built up a huge following.
Fr O'Hagan said he believes The Priests' gigs are unique, because many fans not only have a great night out, but leave with a new-found faith.
He added: "Many concert-goers meet us backstage and we talk about their faith and issues that are on their mind. The music can put a face on faith and many people have developed a stronger faith through it. Hearing us live has benefited them."
The Priests are Fr David Delargy and brothers Fr Eugene and Fr Martin O'Hagan who began singing while boarders at St MacNissi's College, Garron Tower. Their debut album was released in 30 countries and they scooped the Guinness World Record for the fastest-selling UK classical debut.