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Long vocations — 7 Comments

  1. I worked in Africa as a lay volunteer with Irish Catholic missionaries in educational and rural development matters. I saw first hand the cheerful attention nuns, priests and teaching brothers gave to their duties and to people benefiting from educational and medical programmes initiated by missionaries. As individuals belonging to religious orders they enjoyed more freedom to take social and pastoral initiatives than they ever could have dreamed of had they opted to work in dioceses in their native Ireland. In their own country bishops and religious superiors would have moved them from pillar to post at whim, like coloured pins moved around on a military map. Incidentally, I met some long serving members of the Irish Christian Brothers in Zambia, who had been working in secondary schools, trades training centres, and on community Aids awareness campaigns.Government administrators and parents hold their institutions in high esteem. Within a few years the old hands will have retired and died and administration of institutions will have been laicised by African professionals. I hope the lay people will hold on to the spirit of pragmatic dedication shown by their foreign predecessors.

    I am also aware that in parts of Africa some of the best rural and urban schools and hospitals were set up by Anglican and Nonconformist missionaries, some of whom came from Ireland. The story of the Irish-initiated Leprosy Mission has been published, but the wider contribution of Irish Protestants to Africa, India and elsewhere remains to be researched and told.

    I agree with your observation that those Catholic brothers, priests and sisters who taught decently in Irish schools and worked quietly and without scandal in institutions for the handicapped and disadvantaged must feel betrayed by the revelations of institutional inhumanity perpetrated by members of the orders and networks that they dedicated their lives to. You also make a telling observation that aged members of teaching orders must feel badly let down by the cynical cutehoor morality that has been practised by politicians, businessmen and professionals who got their first chance in education because of the spiritual committment of those who joined teaching orders thirty, forty or more than fifty years ago..

  2. These are the people the others have let down.

    It is an interesting development in Irish culture to have Protestant priests commenting on Roman Catholic affairs, yourself and Stephen Neill, for example. This must surely be a healthy development by anybody’s reckoning. Hope you guys don’t take offence when the RCs respond in kind, if they dare. 🙂

  3. I have even written to the Irish Times in defence of the Roman Catholic church, not because I agree with anything the Pope says, but because of the priests and religious I encounter in daily life. The letters I have received on the couple of occasions I have made the columns have been fascinating.

  4. I am sorry for your troubles, is a common way of sympathising with people at an Irish funeral. You must have an interesting pastoral and social life as someone coming from a very urban, agnostic society to live in a grassroots Irish rural setting where the majority of neighbours attend a different, troubled church on Sundays.

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