Spiritan Features

Understanding the Call to Mission in Ireland Today and the Spiritan Response

Billy Cleary 

Introduction and inputs 

Some one hundred Spiritan confrères, associates, co-workers, volunteers, employees and friends gathered on Saturday morning, 23rd April, 2016. The theme for the gathering, ‘Understanding the Call to Mission in Ireland Today and the Spiritan Response’ generated much interest. After a welcome cup of tea, we had a prayerful reflection which was led by Paddy Moran C.S.Sp. with students from St. Mary’s College, Rathmines who were our hosts for the day. 

Paddy Reilly of KDSC chaired the panel discussion and introduced the four speakers. The Chairperson of Bawnogue Parish Pastoral Council, Frank Feely, shared his personal experience of working with Spiritans in pastoral ministry. Rory Halpin, recently appointed as Acting Director of SPIRASI, spoke on the mission dimension of the Spiritan calling expressed in SPIRASI through its outreach to asylum-seekers. Dolorés Stewart, Receptionist at Kimmage Manor, shared experiences that she had gathered from a number of colleagues who work for the Spiritans in administration, health care, maintenance and mission promotion. Finally, Mary McMahon, a teacher and chaplain in Blackrock College, spoke of her participation in Spiritan mission through outreach with students and other school staff on night-time soup-runs to the poor and abandoned on Dublin city streets. 

Appreciation of Spiritan mission 

Following a break, participants gathered in discussion groups of their choice under one of four headings of Pastoral, Justice and Peace, Services and Education. For forty minutes the groups reflected on what was heard in the presentations focussing particularly on what helped in the appreciation of Spiritan mission and a sharing of each one’s experience of Spiritan mission. 

Back in general assembly the learning from the different groups was shared. This included: 

• Spiritan ethos is not just a badge but putting this ethos into practice in everyday life (e.g. student on soup-run reaching out – not just piety but Christianity in practice). 

• Involving the lay people in Church. Parts of the world have a lot of priests. “Taking ownership” of community. 

• Spiritans are too modest about their work. We must do more networking: “Market your product.” 

• Our definition of mission is changing. 

• We need to tell the Spiritan story – loud and clear. 

• Let’s use the resource of Spiritan missionaries coming home. 

Life-giving sense of community 

Buzz words that came up such as vulnerability, outreach, solidarity, dialogue, values, empowering, and compassion were often heard in the course of the morning. A life-giving sense of community pervaded our gathering and this was reflected in the ‘feedback on the day’ which expressed gratitude for the warm welcome and the inspiration that had been received. The formal part of the day concluded with a time of reflection and prayer followed by lunch. 

For photographs from the day see http://www.spiritan.ie/2012/index.php?id=330 

Confrère who was buried at sea 

Returning to Ireland for treatment after getting malaria in The Gambia, Fr. Geoffrey O’Sullivan died in 1934, aged 51, and was buried at sea. The Midleton native had also ministered for over a decade in Nigeria, and as Killeshandra-based chaplain to the Holy Rosary Sisters.