The decorations are down, the bare Christmas trees have been sent to the tip, and there are no more flashing fairy lights outside houses to brighten up my early morning walks. It’s mid-January, it’s already the third week back at work, and it’s not always easy in these dark days to find motivation and meaning. And it’s no wonder that many people take now to booking their summer holidays, with the lure of long sunny days ‘away from it all’. Continue Reading
St Mildred’s Church in Canterbury was packed full for a celebration of the life of a great friend of mine, Denise Rigden. And in honour of a woman who almost every day wore party dresses, fancy shoes and a flower in her hair, the invitation had been for us to dress as if coming to a wedding. Continue Reading
As a native of Liverpool, with Wexford roots from my maternal grandfather, I grew up with stories of the family farm back in Ferns, and stories of my grandfather, Henry Gahan, a Liverpool man, who was a veteran of the trenches of World War One.
As a member of the Royal Engineers, he would crawl out into no man’s land-that very dangerous space between the British and German trenches-to try and intercept German messages on their telephone lines. However, at the end of 1916, as a result of the wet conditions of the trenches, he became ill and was discharged from the army and returned to his job as a post office telegrapher in Liverpool.
A hundred years ago on 11 November 1918, he was on duty in Liverpool’s main post office, in his role as a telegraphist. He was responsible for receiving and sending messages via morse code-a series of dots and dashes-along radio lines, one of the main methods of electronic communications a century ago.
My wife and I were staying with friends in Liverpool and Paul was telling us about his voluntary work as Chair of the St Bart’s & Friends Community Sponsorship Scheme, by which careful preparations are made for the welcome of a Syrian refugee family into a parish. Paul mentioned the excellent input the group had received from Sean Ryan of Caritas Salford who is the national lead for the scheme. “Sean the musician?” I asked. It was indeed the same Sean that I had been in Rome with a few weeks ago for the Caritas Leadership Week and with whom I’d enjoyed a couple of great sessions of music. Continue Reading
Mass with the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the magnificent St Patrick’s Chapel at Maynooth was the start of a 5 night trip that would take me across Ireland, up a holy mountain, and finishing with a fundraising walk with two Gaelic footballers and a bishop, among others. Continue Reading
I get the chance through my work to meet a lot of great people, in some interesting places (from prisons to palaces), and the Caritas Leadership Week near Rome did not disappoint. We were a group of fifty, representing a range of Catholic charities and dioceses in England and Wales, staying at Villa Palazzola, a 13th century Cistercian monastery perched above a volcanic lake, Lago di Albano, and according to the website ‘Rome’s best kept secret’. Continue Reading
I was in Dublin for the World Meeting of Families, attended by Pope Francis, and was very touched by the whole occasion. The positive and joyful atmosphere around the various events was a welcome tonic and a sign of hope for a Church which, especially in Ireland, has taken a bit of a bashing in recent times. Continue Reading