Welcome back to the Log. There was no Log last week, of course, because I, with all the community, was at our Passionist Provincial Chapter in Larne. I had presumed that the Log this week would be all about the Chapter, but then came the terrible news yesterday about Saint Simon’s Church in Partick being burnt to the ground, with the unlikelihood that it will ever be restored, or opened, ever again. Readers of this Log will be aware that my roots are in Partick. I was actually born in Partick Bridge Street, with Saint Simon’s at the bottom of the road. I was baptized there, and celebrated my 1st Communion and Confirmation there too. I served on the altar at daily and Sunday Masses, as well as Wednesday night Devotions and Friday night Stations of the Cross. I had many, young prayerful moments, sitting in the church, while my father and, after his death, my uncle, serviced the boiler out in the yard. I was spiritually formed by three good priests of the parish, each of them very different. When I moved out to Drumchapel with my family, and even after I joined the Passionists, I would return again and again to this most beautiful little church, the cradle of my faith. Even after I was ordained, my first Parish Mission was preached in Saint Simon’s and then, quite some years later, when my youngest niece decided she wanted to be married there, to make the connection with her forebears, I came over from Dublin to celebrate her Nuptial Mass. The parish priest, at that time, had inadvertently double-booked, and we had to delay the bride’s arrival by about an hour, while a Polish Mass was being celebrated in the church. But now it’s gone, and I feel a great sense of sadness and loss, as I know many other people will; but I also feel a great sense of gratitude for all that Saint Simon’s meant to me in my life. I will be processing this in my mind and heart for a long time to come.
Regarding the Chapter, as I mentioned in my last Log, we were very happy to welcome our Superior General, Father Joachim Rego, to stay with us for a few days before the Chapter, over which he would preside. We had great fun the night before we travelled, as we all had to take a Covid test, photograph the results, and send them to the Retreat House where the Chapter was to take place. All five of us, the General included, sat around the kitchen table, anxiously waiting for the required half-hour to expire, before we could confirm 5, hopefully negative results. One positive test and none of us could travel and, in all likelihood, without the General, the Chapter would have been postponed for a third time. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. It was good to gather with the men who came to Larne, especially as we hadn’t seen each other since before Covid, except on Zoom. The spirit was good as we entered into the task of the week, to face critical issues and make realisable plans for the next four years. I think a Chapter can be like a marathon. There comes a point when you hit a wall, usually when you have to move beyond discussions and conversations, and start making decisions and concrete proposals. We hit that on Wednesday, and then, somehow, got through the wall on Thursday morning. On Thursday afternoon we elected our Provincial, thankfully returning Father Jim Sweeney for a second term. We maintained a good tradition of electing one of our younger men as one of the Provincial’s 4 consultors and, after a bit of a neck and neck tussle with Father Gareth, Father Antony was elected, much to the relief of Father Gareth. The Chapter came to a close on Friday and we prepared to journey home, minus Father Joachim, who would fly to Vienna on Saturday, to preside at the Germany/Austria Passionist Chapter.
So, now we begin a process of discernment, as we take the pastoral priorities that came from the Chapter, and try to put together teams in the various locations of Saint Patrick’s Province, who can best realise these priorities. More and more, we realise, that we cannot do this on our own, and so we have to forge deeper relationships with people who are involved with us, and who share a love for our charism of proclaiming the Passion of Christ as the greatest and most overwhelming expression of God’s love for us. So, watch this space! Meanwhile, as ever, protect yourselves, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.