I sit here looking out a window that I haven’t looked out since 2010. I have lived in this place before on two occasions. I have also ministered here as Deacon from 1996 to 1997. It was here that I had my first baptisms before I went to London for summer pastoral work, the summer before Tony Blair became Prime Minister there. These babies are all young adults now. This morning at Mass in the parish, I recalled the name of the first child I baptized, a baby girl. I have been appointed to the Capuchin Friary, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Priorswood, on Dublin’s northside near the Airport and while I have arrived here towards the end of last week, I officially take up the pastoral care of this parish on September 1st.
I am happy to be here although I am not without some small fears. Someone once said you are only as good as your last gig. So, no matter what happened in the past, today it’s a new day. We move forward in hope and like nine years ago, I begin with no agenda – let’s see.
Everyone changes as the years pass, and indeed as the days go by, we change and grow. The albums that bands and singers put out in the early days are not the same as their later work, and song writing and music moves on and shifts shape. So here I am in Priorswood, nine years older and a few kilogrammes lighter and looking out a window I haven’t looked out since 2010. When I was here last, I was a hospital chaplain and someone else was parish priest. Now, I’m the parish priest and I hope to learn the ropes.
I write this a year to the day that Pope Francis came to Dublin for the World Meeting of Families 2018. I was in an RTE Studio in Montrose early on that day as part of a panel talking about the atmosphere around the papal trip and anticipating the arrival of the Alitalia jet carrying the Holy Father and the Vatican Officials. I got back to the city in time to gather with the friars in the Capuchin Day Centre, security cleared and scanned, and to sneak a peek up Bow Street in Dublin 7 to see the Pope Mobile drive towards us. Here I heard echoes of Pope John Paul II on Thomas Street in 1979. And then to be introduced to Pope Francis personally was something I will never forget.
Pope Francis took the name of St. Francis of Assisi. This was no accident in that he has always identified with the Little Poor Man of Assisi and how he answered the call of Jesus from the Cross of San Damiano to ‘Repair my Church.’ This is the perennial call to all Franciscans. Here in the Dublin parish named after and dedicated to Francis of Assisi, I hope to do my part together with the team, the Pastoral Council, and the people of Priorswood. We hope to reach out to all, but especially young people and young families where they’re at and take it from there. In the words of St. Francis; “Let us begin again…”