An unholy row has broken out after a church singer claims she was ‘verbally attacked’ by a priest for singing a popular song in honour of dead relatives.
Sara Laughlin claims she was shouted at by Fr. Shane Gallagher after singing the popular hit song ‘Voice of an Angel.’
However Father Gallagher has disputed what went on, telling Donegal Daily that he felt he had been cyber-bullied by others commenting about the incident on Facebook.
Teacher Sara performed the song at St Bridget’s Church in Lettermacaward, Co Donegal as part of an anniversary Mass for her late grandmother and uncle.
But after the Mass on Saturday evening, Sara was asked to come into the sacristy of the church by Fr. Gallagher, she says.
A disagreement ensued which Sara claims left her in tears, she told Donegal Daily.
Sara, a teacher and also director of the Donegal Youth Choir, alleged that Fr Gallagher said he did not want the ‘Sarah McLochlan song’ performed in the church.
However Sara explained it was written by Fr Liam Lawton and was actually in her hymn book.
Sara broke down and cried but now says she was then verbally attacked by the priest who allegedly told her “play all your emotions.”
When Sara explained the song was for her late grandmother and uncle the priest, she claims he simply said “big deal” and when she said she was leaving he replied “great…go.”
The church singer took to Facebook and has been inundated with messages of support and also outrage and anger towards the priest who allegedly attacked Sara.
She said one of the reasons she posted a message on Facebook was to let people know why she would not be singing in the church ever again.
“I have never been so insulted and spoken to in such a manner in my life! I treat the Mass with great dignity and respect and it means the world to me,” she said.
“I have not been able to stop crying and shaking since.
“I am gutted, shaken to the core, insulted, hurt, sad, afraid, bewildered and unable to stop crying! I am writing this so people will know why our voices won’t be heard in the chapel so close to our hearts anymore and it is with a heavy heart I write it,” said Sara.
She has even received a message of support from Fr Liam Lawton who wrote the song.
The priest said he read Sara’s message with great sadness and said her gift and talent far outweighed the injustice which has been done to her.
And Father Lawton pleaded “Please don’t allow one person to destroy what you have to offer. You need to concentrate on your beauty and gift as, long, long after this experience is over and forgotten you will continue to touch hearts and lives with your beautiful gift.
“And for what it’s worth you sing “Voice of an Angel” just like I imagined it should be sung when I wrote it.”
She has received huge support from many in her local community.
Last night many well-wishers called to her home to show support for the well-known choir singer following the incident.
Many have encouraged her to report the matter to the Bishop of Raphoe, Dr Philip Boyce.
Sara’s mother Eileen also witnessed the alleged incident along with her husband Chris, a well-known businessman in the Lettermacaward area.
Eileen said she is “absolutely heartbroken” at what she witnessed.
But she has vowed to have the matter “dealt with.”
“The mass tonight was for my mum and my brother, who we lost at the age of 22. I asked Sara to sing the hymn ‘the voice of an angel’ for my mum tonight and I turned to my sister and said with tears in my eyes “this is for mum”.
“We all love the music of Fr Liam Lawton so much and that hymn is so special as we think of mum and Tony as our angels in the darkness we have already had to face in life.
“I am saddened to the core. Already the support of the community has been overwhelming and heartwarming and there is no way that this will not be dealt with. Thanks so much to all the people who have visited the house and showed their support,” she said.
However Fr Gallagher said there is two sides to every story and said some of what Sara claimed is simply not true.
He said he is considering issuing statement on the issue and if that statement is forthcoming, Donegal Daily will publish it in full.