Blog Update including new appointment & Camino Walk

Friends it’s been a while…

Since i departed Monte Sinai, Ecuador i have been in Peru…

Every January all members of the Missionary Society of Saint James The Apostle gather for our Annual General Meeting at the Society’s center house in Lima, Peru.

Joining the members were several visiting priests from Ireland and several former alumni of the Society from the States and England. Some other missionaries working in Peru also joined the three days of conferences and meetings. We were happy and honored to have with us Bishop Robert Hennessey, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, who represented Cardinal Sean O’ Malley. Also, Fr. Loreto Jaque, our newest member, arrived in time for the meeting. During a Mass Bishop Robert presented him with his mission cross and welcomed Fr. Loreto into the Society.

Our meeting began with a day of conferences by a Peruvian priest, Fr. Cesar Torres Pantoja, C.S.s.R. His talk was called a radical Following of Christ, based on Pope Francis’ encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium. Fr. Cesar explained the transformation of the mission of the church, and also how we are called to not only announce the Gospel as witnesses of the Gospel, but also to live the Gospel in our daily actions. The work of the church is to be permanently in mission. Bishops, priests, religious and laity must be in contact with the church in the streets and in our world. This is the kind of a church that Pope Francis envisions. ALL are to be included in the mission of the church; no one is to be excluded. Fr. Cesar cited how well so many non-Catholic religions do this already.

Fr. Cesar said that the option for the poor must be a reality in the church. The Bishops of Latin America called on all members of the church to reach out to the poor, as Pope Francis urges us to do also. He praised the Missionary Society of St. James priests for their commitment to the poor and for living in so many areas that are so poor. He stressed that we must take care of the weak in our society, help those without places to live, help the migrants to the cities, help those suffering because of violence in society and most especially to help women and children of the poor. We must work for the evangelization of all people and not to trust in our own efforts but in God’s.

Our next presenter was Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, the founding father of liberation theology. Recently, Fr. Gutierrez met with Pope Francis in Rome. He shared the wonderful meeting he had with Pope Francis and shared with us the encouragement and support that the pope extended his way. Fr. Gustavo’s message was a message of hope. He continued by speaking of the work of the church, which is to announce the good News and work for justice and to help the poor.

Our last speaker was Columbian missioner, Fr. Cathal Gallagher, who spoke about the AIDS epidemic affecting not only the whole world, but especially Peru. Fr. Cathal asked, what does it mean to minister to those with AIDS? Fr. Cathal worked for a number of years in England in a clinic for people suffering with AIDS. His insights were both provocative and challenging. He gave us an extensive history of the AIDS virus: where and how it began and where we are in the world with it now. He also explained how AIDS can be controlled and how in Peru presently, half the people who have the AIDS virus are unaware of it. Globally, treatment reaches one in five persons affected with AIDS. Brazil offers treatment for anyone who suffers from this illness. There is no national campaign in Peru to treat this disease, and those who suffer from it face stigma and discrimination. Fr. Cathal said the pastoral response is inclusion in all parish activities. Invite them to participate, encourage them to belong, as they are our brothers and sisters.

The meeting and conferences ended and welcomed our newest member, Fr. Loreto Jaque from the Philippines.

I assisted then for some weeks in the Parish of Ate Vitarte with Fr. Des Tynan, Boston Priest and a TIPPERARY native! Des has been serving God’s poor in Peru all his life and is a great Missionary. He is so dedicated to the people and serves very generously in all he does. Fr. Loreto has been assigned to work in Ate with Des. What a great asset Loreto is to this poor developing parish. He is young, has great pastoral experience, talented, enthusiastic and has creative energy and will no doubt serve and do his very best and be a most welcome addition to the team at El Resucitado, Ate.

After some rest and renewal in England I headed to North Wales on retreat to a beautiful place called St. Bueno’s. The great Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins lived here for a couple of years where he wrote some of his most wonderful poetry…

 ’The world is charged with the grandeur of God…
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness in deep down thing’s…’

Continuing on after that I visited Rome and Ephesus with my mother. That was a very special time as it gave us time to relax and just be together.

Two very special and important friends then arrived to visit Fr. David Costello and I in May. Henry Arranibar and Fr. Cesar Torres (whom i have already spoken about above) both Peruvian. Henry had just completed his studies in University in Lima and Cesar was taking a well earned break from work in his busy parish in the Diocese of Chosica, Lima (where David worked). Both were sponsored to come to Ireland and what a great blessing this has been in their lives.

Henry and Cesar had made many friendships with Irish visitors coming to Lima. Henry also met many of my friends and colleagues over the years both in Ecuador and Lima. So, now it was in return for welcome and hospitality that we decided to give both these good guys an opportunity and experience of life and living in Ireland.

The long journey from Lima to Ireland took them to Panama, Amsterdam and eventually Dublin. We drove that first day to Galway and somethingIi was going to hear many times again was how: ‘Clean, Green and Ordered’ Ireland looks. I had to agree. The new green growth on the trees was particularly impressive.

We lived in Nenagh with my parents. Day trips included: Cliffs of Moher, Killaloe, Tuamgraney, Maynooth, Mitchelstown, Thurles, Kilkee, Mullagh, Spanish Point, Trim, Knock, New- Grange, Mellifont Abbey, and on a most magnificent Summers Day…Rathlin Island off the beautiful Antrim Coast being hosted by Fr. Brian Daly…impressive. Visits to our Friends and Colleagues Fr. Des Mooney in Craigavon, Fr. Malachy Murphy in Whitecross, Co. Armagh and Fr. Phelim McKeown, Bessbrook, Co. Armagh – Thank You all for your welcome and hospitality. To Fr. Tom Hogan and all in the Cathedral in Ennis, gratitude also for your kindness and generosity as usual.

Heading North/West we stopped off at Yeats’s Grave in Drumcliffe, Sligo and reflected at his grave:

 ’Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on death
Horseman pass by’

To travel on to beautiful Bundoran and walk that fabulous cliff-walk by the golf course… and eventually arrive to the island of Lough Derg, Donegal and be part of pilgrimage and witness live faith was refreshing and revitalising. Peruvian friends were in awe and wonder!

I took off then one beautiful June day with my good friend Kieran Mahony to climb the Reek, Craogh Patrick. This is my annual NCT as it tests health and faith! The great Tidy Town of Westport looked magnificent as usual. Watch out Ennis! I love climbing this mountain. It is no wonder St. Patrick found GOD so close on it!

For the last six weeks or so I have been here in USA doing some final work for the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle. I have preached/ministered in the parishes of Charlestown, Natick, Waltham, Melrose in MA, Bridgeport, Connecticut and Orlando, Florida.

To conclude presently…last week I accepted a new appointment in my home Diocese of Killaloe. Bishop Kieran has appointed me to the parish of Toomevara. I am very content and looking forward to living and working in Toomevara in my home County. My fitness programme will have to progress more to join the local GAA team!

But, before that happens on Monday nextIi will begin walking the ancient pilgrimage ‘The Camino de Santaigo de Compostela, ‘The Way’. It’s a 500 mile (approximate) walk from France across Northern Spain. Being a member of the Missionary Society of Saint James the Apostle and working in Ecuador, South America this pilgrimage has huge significance for me as St. James is our Patron.

So, in great appreciation and gratitude to you all who have prayed, supported and given generously to build up our new parish of Monte Sinai, this is my way of saying ‘thanks’.This is my small way of expressing my thankfulness to our Diocese, St. James and all who have helped me. You will be very much ‘on Camino’ with me as i walk, talk, celebrate Eucharist, pray and be a pilgrim like everyone else in the footsteps of the great St. James.

I hope and pray when i arrive at the magnificent Cathedral in SantiagoIi will be able to say THANK YOU for others who support, give and look after us in life. I will then pray at the tomb of St. James for each one of you and thank God for you… ‘happiness is not real unless it is shared’.

Follow asIi blog on the Camino!

                              Gracias y amor, john.