Irish Chaplaincy is hiring!
We are looking for a Pastoral Outreach Support Worker to help to expand and develop our befriending, support and advocacy service for elderly Irish across London. Salary £26,360. Deadline: April 12th 2pm (interviews May 1st). Please return completed application form (and Equal Opportunities Monitoring form) to firstname.lastname@example.org (Tel: 0207 7482 3274)
You were a woman of peace.
You brought harmony where there was conflict.
You brought light to the darkness. You brought hope to the downcast.
May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious,
and may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world.
Inspire us to act justly and to reverence all God has made.
Brigid you were a voice for the wounded and the weary.
Strengthen what is weak within us. Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.
May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.
St. Brigid’s Feast Day is February 1st.
I am in awe of the internet and mobile technology and the evolution of smart phones and smart devices which have become the norm in modern day life. With the growth of social media, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Skype to name but a few, it is possible to be in almost permanent contact with a member of your family or a friend who is living thousands of miles away. Social media has been a blessing for families of those who have emigrated but there is also a downside.
One Irish Mammy said, that while she was regularly able to see her grandchildren on the PC through the internet, “you can’t hug Skype”. Social media has allowed people to be close to loved ones at difficult times and now, because of webcams in churches, you can attend a funeral in many parts of Ireland from as far away as Sydney or Boston.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
We were delighted to receive a visit in October from the new Irish Ambassador Adrian O’Neill,
who was accompanied by Ruaidhri Dowling and Noleen Curran from the Embassy. Ambassador
O’Neill stayed for over an hour and was interested to hear about the work of the Chaplaincy and about our plans for development and expansion in each of our project areas. He also congratulated the Chaplaincy on 60 years of service to the Irish in Britain.
How do I find words to describe a rather emotional journey into the vulnerability, pain and plight, pride and resilience of our elderly Irish, often the unsung heroes or the broken survivors. I have plenty of time for reflections as I travel across the whole of London to visit the elderly in their homes, hospitals, and care homes.
“It is a lifeline for the large Irish community both in Camden and across London”
(Sir Kier Starmer, MP after a visit to the Irish Chaplaincy and Seniors’)
“I would have gone downhill without the Chaplaincy. Now I’m enjoying life again and getting out”
(Client interview, 2017)
Thanks to a grant from a funder, a thorough review of the Irish Chaplaincy Seniors’ Project, ICSP took place in June and July 2017. A consultant, Sharon Tuppeny interviewed many stakeholders, chief amongst them being the Seniors themselves, and she concluded:
‘There is… a pressing need, both in the present and the foreseeable future, amongst frail isolated elderly Irish people. The ICSP would be well placed to address these needs if additional resources were in place.’
Fr. Michael O’Connor, parish priest of Sacred Heart R.C. Church, Kilburn, noted that:
“The Irish Chaplaincy offers a unique service supporting isolated older Irish, as they are aware of the particular spiritual needs of older Irish, which can be essential in supporting their clients improve their mental health.”
Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith says:
“I have worked closely with the Irish Chaplaincy and have always been impressed with the quality of the service and the level of care given to people who are often extremely vulnerable. The help they give not only includes emotional support, but also practical help and advocacy for people who are often going through difficult periods in their lives.”
What comes across especially strongly in the report is the voices of the Seniors’ themselves and their families:
“They always call every week, then they chase up others who have forgotten me. I can’t keep calling social services; it makes me ill.”
“It’s like a bit of home every week. I see other people but none of them are Irish; they don’t understand.”
“You work miracles. Without you I don’t know where I’d be. I would be on the streets in tears.”
“I wish everyone could have a Chaplaincy caseworker– they manage to get services in place for their clients like no one I have ever worked with.”
“Things don’t happen without the ICSP calling, pushing, advocating.”
“It is staggering the progress that has been made with the case since the Chaplaincy got involved. I could cry.”
“I would love to see someone…but the phone call is a lifeline.”
“People want to be treated holistically, in their totality, and this includes their mental health and spiritual needs.”
“ICSP connect with Irish elders in a way we (other provider) might not.”
“Your visits are a lifeline for me”- James Connolly, seen here with Pat Delaney who visits him regularly.
In the light of the report we have made several applications for funding so that we can recruit an additional staff member for ICSP plus more volunteers. The presence of an extra staff member would also free up Paul, the ICSP Manager to develop our partnership working in a variety of areas such as dementia care, end-of-life care, hospital discharge and the interplay between spirituality, dementia and mental health.
As part of Traveller History Month in June, the Irish Chaplaincy
organized an event at Wormwood Scrubs prison in London for
Irish Travellers. After a competition (with cash prizes on offer for
the lucky winners) I sang a few old Irish songs and was spontaneously
and ably joined on guitar by one of the men who informed
me that he’d worked as a session musician. There was a great
atmosphere with lots of friendly banter, and this continued during
the shared meal that followed. I was touched when one of the
guys said to me “it’s things like this that help to keep my spirits up”.
We promised to be back for another event near to Christmas, to
which one character shouted out “well I won’t be here, please
God, because I’m due for release in November”!
Somebody asked me during the meal, “How do you sing Irish
songs like that when you’ve got an English accent?” I explained
that it’s what I’d grown up with. My parents were two of the many
thousands of Irish people who came to England in the post-war
years in search of work, and it was to minister to the needs of this
wave of emigrants that the Irish Chaplaincy was founded in 1957.
Inspired by the words of Jesus “I was a stranger and you took me
into your home; I was sick, and you cared for me; I was in prison,
and you visited me”, we will continue to walk alongside the people
we meet at Wormwood Scrubs and elsewhere and with other Irish
people most on the margins.
And true to our word we will be back at the Scrubs for another
event at the end of November. There will be more music, this time
from Hackney Folk who did a great set of traditional Irish music at
our July concert; there will be a performance from Irish Theatre of
the specially-commissioned 2-person play, ‘Irish Chaplaincy- 60
Years on’; and we will once again finish with a meal. As Jesus
showed time and again in the gospel stories, to share food with
somebody is to share in an intimate and profound way something
of our shared humanity. I’m sure this will be another uplifting event