Shortly after the Log was published last week, our post-Chapter appointments were finalized. There is a saying that, the more things change, the more they stay the same. On this occasion, however, they are not staying the same. Father Gareth has been asked by our Provincial to join our Passionist community at Holy Cross, Belfast. He will be part of the parish team at Holy Cross, and also be part of a North Belfast project we are initiating to try and develop our Passionist mission in that part of St. Patrick’s Province. Father Gareth spent his first two years, after ordination, at Holy Cross, before being handed his first official appointment to come to St. Mungo’s. Needless to say, he was very popular in Belfast, and they were sorry to see him go. No doubt they will now be delighted to welcome him back.
The two of us arrived at St. Mungo’s in the early days of October 2016, never having lived, or worked together before. I remember our first Sunday here, after the morning Masses, we went for lunch to La Vita’s in Bishopbriggs, and had a good chat, trying to get to know a bit of each other’s stories. From the offset, we clicked together well, and we put our combined energies into the task we had been given, to try and revitalize the mission in St. Mungo’s. We were glad of the assistance offered by Father Lawrence, God rest him, and Father Justinian, and then we were blessed with the arrival of Brother Antony, still a student at that time, to take up a role with regard to college and university chaplaincies. By then, Father Gareth had gotten the Passionist Young Team up and running, a great achievement, and Brother Antony readily partnered with Father Gareth to form a dynamic duo. Of course, the Passionist Young Team is full of leaders and, over the years, despite a big turnover, when international students would finish their courses and return to their own countries, it has gone from strength to strength, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so. On those occasions when it was God’s will that Father Gareth spend time with his mum in her illness, we missed him terribly, but he always came back larger than life and soon picked up where he had left off, as if never away.
Brother Antony became Father Antony at the end of 2019, but hardly had the chrism dried on his hands when lockdown came. I won’t go into all the ins and outs, ups and downs, of that period again, but the two have been just about inseparable and now, as we inch towards a more normal situation, Father Gareth is moving on. However, they will combine to be joint directors of Passionist Vocations, Father Gareth in Ireland, and Father Antony in Scotland. If our Passionist Mission in Scotland is to continue far into the future we will need vocations, and I’m sure the dynamic duo will put great enthusiasm and energy into achieving that. I would imagine, also, that they will combine in trying to develop our ministry to, and with, young people and, I know, that sad though they are, our Young Team will be well up for that.
I’m delighted that Father Antony is remaining on the mission here in St. Mungo’s with me. As well as Father Justinian out at the house in Bishopbriggs, we will be joined by Father John Varghese, a Passionist from India, who is going to be with us for a minimum of three years. Father John will work mostly with me on the parish as we try and free up Father Antony for his chaplaincy and vocations work. But, no doubt, the three of us will be creative in finding energy for other projects too. It’s not easy to replace someone as much-loved as Father Gareth and, of course, there could never be another Father Gareth, like for like, he is too much of a one off for that, but we will give Father John a very warm welcome, and we can look forwarded to experiencing the unique giftedness that he will bring too. God be with us.
As always, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.