A local committee is planning a grand celebration of the saint for 2024, the 1,500th anniversary of her reputed death. And the Irish government announced in January that from next year there will be a new annual public holiday, on or around February 1, to mark both Imbolc and Saint Brigid’s Day. It will, according to the government, be the first Irish public holiday to honor a woman.
For some Catholic feminists, the new interest in Brigid reflects the liberalization of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which seemed to mark the end of the submissive and cloistered role of women in the Church.
“Many nuns, like the Brigidines, have become much more engaged in ecological and social issues, and they are also in contact with feminist groups around the world,” said Mary Condren, director of the Center for Gender Studies. and the women of Trinity College Dublin.
Margaret Hebblethwaite, a leading English writer on Catholic issues, attended this year’s vigil at Saint Brigid’s Well.
While she had heard the name Saint Brigid as a child, Mrs. Hebblethwaite had only recently learned that, exceptionally, Brigid and her female successors governed not only nuns but also male monks. Additionally, it is believed that Brigid, despite being a woman, was ordained a bishop.
“She is such a role model, which the church today so badly needs because of gender equality issues,” Ms Hebblethwaite said.
In many other Christian churches these issues have already been addressed. The Church of Ireland voted in 1990 to allow women to become priests, and in 2013 it appointed its first woman bishop. In December that year, the Most Reverend Pat Storey became Bishop of Meath and Kildare – perhaps the first woman to hold such a title since Brigid herself.