Oh my goodness - I am embarrassed to see that it is June since I visited this 'old' blog. It is good to be back! I know that the path to hell is paved with good intentions, but I do intend to be more attentive to the blog in the coming months.
A wonderful summer has passed. It was great to be back in Ireland for a few weeks visiting family and friends. Had a game of golf at Carton House, Co Kildare and a day in Belfast. I was delighted to visit Holy Cross monastery where I spent 7 very happy years. The 10.00 o'clock Mass was about to begin and I was delighted to concelebrate and after Mass to greet some parishioners. It is a place that will always have a special place in my heart and I am amazed at the number of people there who still keep in contact by phone, Facebook and occasionally ring the doorbell in Paris to say 'hello'. It is hard to me to believe that I left Holy Cross Belfast eleven years ago this month. My hope and prayer is that the present speculation over 'Brexit' will not have any bad consequences for people North or South. The Good Friday Agreement has served the Island of Ireland well and is above party politics. There is not a day goes bye that I do not pray for a good outcome to the present uncertainty.
So what else is happening in this neck of the woods? The parish activities are getting back into full swing after the summer break. This past weekend, the COD programme which prepared children and young people for Sacraments restarted. We have approximately 200 young people who come each Sunday to class and are instructed by volunteer teachers (over 30 in number). These students are at State schools which has a separation of Church and State. The advantage is that all the 200 students have enrolled for this catechism voluntarily and with their Parents' agreement.
It breaks my heart when I hear and read stories complaining about the 'imposition' of religious education on children and their families. When families here freely choose to have their child baptised, it is not with a view to school admission. When Sunday after Sunday families come to Mass and to class, there is no compulsion to do this. Interestingly, we have a waiting list of those who wish to join in this catechetical programme. We have severe restrictions on the space available, but it is such a joy for me when I see these children and parents arrive. Their Holy Communion and Confirmation will take place at Pentecost 2020. Without freedom of choice for parents and children to engage with the Church, there is something gone seriously wrong within the Body of Christ.
Just in case anyone might think that all is perfect here with such a positive engagement, that is not the case. No, there is always more and better that can be done. As the sole priest here for over a year, I am painfully aware of my shortcomings. I have a long way to go on the road to holiness - even after all these years! All I can say is that the lack of a second or third Passionist as was the case until recently, has brought a greater than ever awareness that the priest is serving the community and not the one to do everything. In truth, this parish leaves me feeling humbled when I see the dedication of so many people ministering withing the community of St Joseph's.
To finish on a lighter note - the weekend 'five-in-a row' by Dubs men and 'three-in-a- row' by Dubs women was a great conclusion to a wonderful weekend. AT