One of the many joys of the priesthood is sharing bits and pieces of life with brother priests from different countries, cultures and experiences. Recently I’ve spent a lot of time with three African priests from Nigeria, Malawi and Uganda. Each of these men have come to Ireland to avail of opportunities to study and develop their pastoral skills. They bring great faith, energy, insights and commitment to serving the Church.
When we chatted together about Pope Francis and the Synodal process it is easy to see that we are one church across the whole world. They have had a similar experience to ours, engaging with parishioners and people of faith with many different opinions about the joys and sorrows of belonging to an imperfect church, while seeking the face of the one God. They can tease me about the “Irish way” and I can learn from their insights into how the church in the developing world is growing in confidence and strength. Most of the original bishops and missionaries in their home diocese were Irish and now for quite some time indigenous priests and highly trained lay people are leading the mission of the church. Each of them has exceptional gifts and talents and strong faith.
During the past year, with all the catching up with First Penance, Communion and Confirmation, I have made many demands on their time and priestly ministry. Their generosity, good spirits, warm smiles and open hearts have been inspirational for me. The bond of shared experience works strongly in both directions and hopefully we all benefit from their enthusiasm for life and ministry, for prayer and service, for mission and growth of the whole faith community.
I heard someone comment at a meeting during the week that there are over 70 foreign born priests assisting in some way in the Dublin Diocese, I hadn’t realised that there were so many and I don’t think I’ve ever thanked them in public before for the service they give, the joy they bring and their support. So thank you brothers, you are welcome here, we need you.