ONE of the nine men ordained as a Permanent Deacon at St Peter’s Cathedral last Sunday says he and others are “not afraid to see the pain” of parishioners as they begin their ministry across the city.
Andersonstown man Gregory McGuigan QC spoke of how he will be beginning a new chaplaincy to the homeless after spending close to 20 years working with those on our streets at the Welcome Organisation and Morning Star hostel.
“Technically I’m with St Brigid’s parish but I attend Clonard very regularly and masses for the homeless in the oratory in the Morning Star every Sunday,” he said. “For the past two years I’ve been doing my pastoral training in St Malachy’s close to the Markets in Alfred Street which is an absolutely fabulous place and reading and learning theology at St Mary’s University College,” he said.
“The training to get to Sunday past has been a four year process.”
Gregory explained how from a young age he had always been in involved “in service of some kind”.
“From junior St Vincent de Paul, working with the homeless, I was one of the first ever volunteers at the Welcome Centre as it was known then in the grounds of St Peter’s. Myself and other volunteers would prepare Sunday dinner, talk to those using the centre, after the centre moved to Divis we still take it in turns to prepare, serve and wash up after Sunday dinner.
“I asked the Bishop and he has agreed for me to start a new chaplaincy to the homeless and the idea of that is to find out what the spiritual needs of the homeless are and I really want to take the lead on that. As a deacon we are available to go to wake houses, visit with the sick and assist at the altar.”
The 52-year-old described the ordination ceremony on Sunday as one he “enjoyed every minute of”.
“I have a lot of friends who are Presbyterian, Protestants and everyone said how much they enjoyed it too, that they had never seen anything like it in their lives. There were four Bishops there and beautiful music from Louis McVeigh, the Cathedral was packed and we had a ball. It lashed all day Saturday and the sun came out on Sunday, it was great after four years to finally get it done.”
Gregory – whose first job at 13 was selling the Andersonstown News around the Norfolk area – said the deacons intend to make a really good difference in their parishes and act “as an extra pair of hands across a variety of ministries”.
“In my view, the homeless, the poor, the sick, whether mentally or physically are the aristocracy of the Church and I say that word very deliberately. Pope Francis is saying it all the time now.
“We have got to take people seriously when they lose someone, whether they are aged 95 to 16 in terms of their grief, give our resources, our time, this is what the Church is for.”