I was surprised at Deirdre when she said her youngest wasn’t making her First Communion. She’s my eldest and she’d be the most ‘camogie and cake sale’ of my children. Even my niece Freya did Communion and her mother is as alternative as spelt bread. But one day, there she was waiting for me in my own house while I was out doing the shopping, and she was off. “I can’t go through with it Mam. The hassle and the money and the dress and all the competing and we’re not even going to Mass. Are you even a Catholic any more? I only see you going to big funerals.”

That’s Deirdre all over. Hitting me with ecumenical questions and I only just in the door from the Lidl.

“What’ll your Nana think?” is the best I can manage.

“Ah Mammy,” she says. “It’s not all about what other people think.” Even though she asked me what I think. But look it, I let her off to make her own decisions and I’ll handle the woman above – my mother. She took it well and she said she’d be praying for them anyway, extra hard so they’d be covered that way.

As it turned out, Deirdre was right about the lack of stress. There was no competing on dresses and shoes and gloves and all of that, and before long there were a few others not doing it as well. And they were going to have their own ceremony. Stepping Stones, it was called. Above in the hall. A young wan from Dublin was going to be the celebrant. There was nearly as much prep for that. They had to do all this stuff about being good citizens. Deirdre’s says to me one day – she’d nearly swap the odd “I Confess” for one of the projects.

I can’t go through with it Mam. The hassle and the money and the dress and all the competing and we’re not even going to Mass. Are you even a Catholic any more? I only see you going to big funerals

But then Deirdre’s aunt-in-law got involved. Noeleen Carmody. All notions. And she thought our side weren’t good enough for their family. On account of the bit of trouble my father had long ago. She hit the roof. “What is going on with all of ye,” she said to her sister, Deirdre’s mother-in-law. “Letting this happen. This oul modern secular nonsense.” But she was too late.

That was grand. It was a lovely ceremony. Even if Noeleen was there with a puss on her. And Denis was delighted not to be doling out money to grandchildren of people he didn’t like. Every child got a little goodie bag and that was that.

Stepping Stones

But afterwards, Deirdre was agog. “Mam the Stepping Stones WhatsApp is buzzing. They all found rosary beads and miraculous medals in their goodie bags. And no one knows how they got in there.”

I soon found out. Donie The Hall sends me a video on WhatsApp. It’s the CCTV in the room next to the hall where the goodie bags were. And there she was. Noeleen. All done out in her finery. Skulking around putting things into the goodie bags. And having a good root in them as well.

Blissfully unaware, Noeleen calls into us a few days later with Ailbhe’s jacket. “She left it at the hotel where we had the meal Ann. I couldn’t let the day pass without a proper meal and not those awful hall sandwiches.”

“Grand so, Noeleen. Now will you excuse me, I have to go up to the hall. There was a break-in and we’re having a look at CCTV for the whole weekend.” (I’m making it up)

“CCTV?” she says. She is as shook. “Oh yes,” I say, “CCTV for the whole place. Every inch of it covered.”

“And Ann would you be looking at the CCTV yourself?”

“We’ll all be looking at it together Noeleen. There’d be the whole committee. In case we know someone.” She grabs my arm. There’s a pleading look in her eyes. “Ann can you get in before them? I might be on it and it might look like I’m up to something at the Communion thing but I’m not, I swear. It would make a show of me.”

“Don’t worry Noeleen,” I smile. “I’ll have a look. It’s the Christian thing to do.”