I start to write this reflection on Diocesan Priesthood on the thirty sixth anniversary of my ordination. Many of the emotions and feelings of joy, excitement, reticence and anticipation of that day come flooding back to me like it was just yesterday.
I have had a variety of experiences in the ministry beginning with a curacy that included School Chaplaincy to working as Religious Education Adviser, to Evangelisation in parishes across England and Wales, to a short stint in the Seminary and eighteen years as a Parish Priest.
I have been privileged to meet and work with some great people and can certainly say that I have learned as much as I have taught. A lot of what I do is hard to evaluate on the short term but as time goes by I realise that as a priest I have touched many lives with the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Working or recreating with people removed from the Church is very refreshing and challenging. Being close to nature in my background has helped me to connect with people of all faiths and cultures in a grounded way. It is a source of great joy and wonder to belong to the Beekeeping community, the Allotment community and the Golfing fraternity. People want to share their joys and sorrows no matter what their religious conviction or none. Every body has a fantastic story to tell that is worth hearing.
As I approach my free Bus Pass birthday I realise that some of my physical energy is deserting me, I reflect a little more on the essentials of the Ministry. It is a wonderful privilege to preside at the Liturgy of the Eucharist celebrating and building up the body of Christ. Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals present real evangelisation opportunities and people will do almost anything if they experience real love in their priest; quoting rules and regulations count for little. One of my favourite scripture passages is Micah 6;8; act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.
One of the real joys of the past year was the RCIA journey with seven adults and accompanied by a great Catechist and Sponsors. The hunger that faith arouses in people who want to belong to the Church is fascinating, wonderful and challenging.
Living on ones own can be lonely but it can also bring great solitude. In my present appointment I am blessed with an enthusiastic energetic Catechetical Coordinator and a person training for the permanent Diaconate. We work collaboratively and the generosity of our parishioners knows no bounds. Much is achieved and much remains to be done. On the night of my Ordination my mother said that she never prayed that I would be a priest; she just prayed that I would choose what God wanted for me. Of course she was delighted that I became a priest. I am delighted that I continue to be a priest in this great Archdiocese.
Tim O’Connor, Class of ‘73