Desmond Fisher  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Desmond Fisher Photo: © Michael Fisher

Desmond Fisher 1920-2014

An appreciation (in The Irish Catholicic-logo

Michael Fisher

It was, my father said, the best news he heard in 50 years. Days before his death, I read him Pope Francis’ address to the Curia, outlining 15 diseases they suffered. He had a progressive view of the Catholic Church, inspired by the time he reported from Rome on Vatican II, where he made many friends including Belgian Cardinal Leo Suenens and theologian Fr Karl Rahner.

The Vatican II version of the Church, he pointed out, is a “communion” of members sharing a common task, rather than a pyramid structure. As Editor of The Catholic Herald, his authoritative coverage of Pope John XXIII’s initiative for change was widely praised in the English-speaking Catholic world. However, it annoyed Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin who found his articles “very objectionable”.

The conservative English hierarchy, led by Cardinal John Heenan, complained to the newspaper’s directors, who recalled him to London. His archive notes describe this as one of the bitterest blows of his life. It was, he said, a consolation that history seemed to have supported his version of Vatican II rather than the Cardinal’s.

He resigned from the paper and freelanced for a year. One of his tasks was to handle the copious media enquiries he received regarding Charles Davis. In December 1966 Fr Davis, then the best-known Catholic theologian in Britain, announced he was leaving the Church.

My father was proud of his roots in Derry, where he was born in 1920. His parents (a mixed marriage) moved to Dublin and aged 11, he won an all-Ireland scholarship for secondary schooling at Good Counsel College in New Ross, run by the Augustinians. He took the education, but decided the priesthood was “not for me”.


His knowledge of Irish, Greek and Latin was exceptional, and at 94 he had just completed a book, typed by himself on his laptop, containing a new translation of the Stabat Mater. It is due to be published by Gracewing later this month. With a BA from UCD, his first job, at age 25, was assistant to the editor of The Nationalist and Leinster Times, Liam Bergin, who became a lifelong friend. In 2011 he stepped down as Vice-Chairman of the same paper.

My first memories of my father are from the time he was London Editor of the Irish Press in Fleet Street. He acted as the Group’s Diplomatic Correspondent, and in 1960 spent three months covering the UN when Frank Aiken chaired the General Assembly. The same year he reported from the Congo on Irish soldiers on UN duty being held prisoner in Jadotville.

Desmond Fisher returned to Ireland in 1967 as RTÉ’s Deputy Head of News, joining fellow Derryman Jim McGuinness.

He later became Head of Current Affairs in RTÉ and after a second resignation on a point of principle was appointed Director of Broadcasting Development. He became involved in the birth of Raidió na Gaeltachta and later RTÉ2.

On retirement from RTÉ in 1983 he returned to Carlow as Editor and Managing Editor of The Nationalist until 1989. He was author of The Church in Transition, a book on the Vatican Council, Broadcasting in Ireland, The Right to Communicate and several pamphlets.

Michael Fisher is a journalist.


Desmond Fisher

Desmond Fisher

The Editor of The Irish Catholic Michael Kelly, who was in contact with my father in recent years, has written the following summary of his life. It was only since 2011 that my father started to read the paper when he became ‘reconciled’ with the parish of Mount Merrion and a new Parish Priest, thanks to a Eucharistic Minister who brought him a copy every week. Ironically, the paper used to be owned by the Catholic Herald group, with whom my father had parted company ‘without regret’ in May 1966, having had ‘policy differences’ with the Board of Directors relating to his progressive coverage of the Vatican Council.

Death of Vatican II and RTE journalist Desmond Fisher

The death of journalist Desmond Fisher on December 30 at the age of 94 can truly be described as the end of an era. For decades, Mr Fisher was a prominent journalist who travelled extensively. He made a remarkable contribution to religious affairs, particularly during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) where he reported from Rome for a time. In retirement, he was an occasional contributor to The Irish Catholic.

His reporting was acknowledged as incisive, with Vienna’s Cardinal Franz König reportedly saying that he learned “more of what is going on at the council from your superb reports” than he heard “while on the spot”.

Mr Fisher, as editor of The Catholic Herald, was in Rome in 1962 before the council opened. He also wrote for the Irish Press, giving Irish Catholics an insight into the momentous event that was Vatican II.


According to Arthur Jones, who worked closely with Mr Fisher, when the latter resigned in 1966, an anonymous article in Herder Correspondence described the backdrop.

“Many bishops in England and Scotland, plus Dublin’s overbearing Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, had strongly opposed Fisher’s interpretation of council events – McQuaid called it ‘very objectionable.’

“When Fisher resigned, dozens of other bishop-attendees wrote to say quite the opposite,” according to Mr Jones.

He was born in Derry in 1920 and his first foray in to journalism was at the age of 25.

Mr Fisher and his wife, Margaret (Peggy), wed in 1948 and marked their 65th wedding anniversary in 2013. (66th in 2014)

For four years, Mr Fisher was with the Irish Press, and in 1954 became its London editor and daily columnist. He became the Press political correspondent and travelled widely in the early 1960s.

In 1962, he wrote in The Catholic Herald that a lay-owned and independent Catholic paper had “a freedom that is journalistically necessary if it is to carry out what it conceives to be its function and which relieves the hierarchy and the clergy generally of any responsibility for opinions expressed in its columns”.

It is a sentiment very close to the heart of The Irish Catholic.

He began working for RTÉ in 1967 and was, for 14 years, Ireland correspondent for The Economist.

Desmond Fisher died peacefully in Blackrock Hospice after a short illness. He is survived by his wife Peggy, daughter Carolyn, sons Michael, Hugh and John, daughters-in-law Evelyn, Ruth and Carmel, grandchildren Sarah, Clare, Sam and Lucy, sister Deirdre, sisters-in-law Nuala Fisher and Sr Nora Smyth, nephews, nieces and a wide circle of friends.

Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace.


Baroness Nuala O'Loan

Baroness Nuala O’Loan

Baroness Nuala O’Loan was the first Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland, who carried a number of reports into some of the most controversial killings during the troubles. Originally from England, she was a solicitor and then a senior law lecturer at the University of Ulster. As a member of the House of Lords, she is a legislator. She has spoken about her Catholic faith on a number of occasions, visiting parishes in different parts of Ireland. So I listened to her talk at the Irish Catholic 125 years conference at All Hallows College in Dublin with particular interest. She made a number of interesting observations about the Irish government’s proposed legislation on abortion, including its provision where suicide is threatened by the mother. In order to give readers the chance to consider her remarks, I looked for a copy of her speech, which she kindly provided and I now publish in full:-

“It is  a great honour to be invited to speak to you at this important conference, important because it marks 125 years of publication by the Irish Catholic, and important too because we meet at a time of great hope for this Church of ours.  I would like to congratulate the Irish Catholic and its loyal staff for all that it has achieved over the years, and for being a source of light and understanding for those of us who read its columns, and who seek accessible answers to some of the great questions which arise in relation to our life and our faith.  Accessibility, in terms of format, but much more importantly in terms of content is profoundly important.  One of the problems which we face is that much of the authoritative written material about faith is articulated in language which can be very dense and of great complexity.  The Irish Catholic makes a great contribution in this and in the range of its coverage and photography!

Audience at Irish Catholic conference

Audience at Irish Catholic conference

It is wonderful, too, that as we meet the world here in Ireland is glorious, blue skies, wonderful sunshine.  I as thinking about it yesterday as I drove around the north – it seem as if all the flowers are blooming at once, flowers of every colour: deep pinks, crimson, lilac, the golden yellow of laburnum, the blues and whites – all so beautiful and all telling of the wonder of God’s creation and the beauty of His work.

I have been asked to speak about Catholicism in public life. The reality is that the complexities and challenges of faith are never more obvious than when one actually tries to live them, especially when one moves outside the comfort zone of church and people of a like mind into the public place.  That is, of course what we are all called to do, and that is what Jesus himself did, at the greatest personal cost.  Being called to Catholicism is not an easy thing, although the fundamentals of our faith are profoundly pure and simple.  We know them well.  We are called to love God and to love one another as he has loved us, to act justly, to love tenderly, to walk humbly.  We know that those who feed the hungry, visit the sick, comfort those who mourn, visit the imprisoned, etc. are blessed.   All very simple in theory.  All quite complex in the playing out of daily life, both at home and in the public sphere.

I wondered what I should say to you today about Catholicism in public life.  I wondered too what you might be expecting me to say.  The reality, as I am sure you know, is that each of us plays some role in public life, if we define public life as that part of the world which exists alongside our family and private life.  Our daily lives are lived in the public sphere – in community, in work, in school, college and university, in politics, in recreation and leisure pursuits. For some of us our public lives are more public than others.  For many of you your decision making will be your private business.  Very often people will not know whether you have agonised over the morality of something, whether it is ethical to act in a particular way.  For others their decision making is the subject to analysis and comment, some of it offensive, much of it robust.  Those of us who move across the public arena, whether by way of journalistic contribution or in politics or others can be very much aware of this.  it is part of our lives.  It can take courage to articulate the truth when it is not a commonly held or easily accepted  view.   We are much blessed, for example, by the integrity of columnists like Breda O’Brien who writes so informatively and so compellingly in defence of the right to life of the unborn. In a world which proclaims the defence of freedom of speech, and human rights, it can seem as if the right of freedom of religion, conscience and thought is not accorded the same respect as the other rights.  We have to reclaim that territory and speak with courage about what we believe.

There are those who said that we live in post Catholic Ireland, that religion has no part to play in public life.  To say this is to misunderstand the nature of Catholicism.  Robert Barron wrote of Christianity in his book, ‘The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path’:

‘Christianity, before all else, is a form of life, a path that one walks. It is a way of seeing, a frame of mind, an attitude, but more than this, it is a manner of moving and acting, standing and relating. It is not simply a matter of the mind but of the body as well. In fact, one could say that Christianity is not real until it has insinuated itself into the blood and the bones, until it becomes an instinct, as much physical as spiritual. Perhaps, the most direct description is this: Christianity, the way of Jesus Christ, is a culture, a style of life supported by a unique set of convictions, assumptions, hopes, and practices. It is like a game with distinctive texture, feel and set of rules’ [The Strangest Way 2002].

For those of us who are Catholic there cannot be and should not be any disconnect between our daily lives in the public place and our religious faith.  So a life lived in the community of the Church,  a life as part of the Body of Christ which is the Church, must be led in a way which reflects its divine maker and which acknowledges the responsibilities and great joys inherent in our greatest gift – our faith.  Once we accept the chain of connectedness from our baptism to our membership of that community, and, through the Eucharist to the fact that Christ lives in each of us, that he lives also in the lives of friends and stranger, that he is constantly to be encountered in the lives of all His people, even in the paedophile, even in the murderer, (utterly challenging as that may be), we live in a very different public place.  We no longer really have the option of behaving as if we really matter more than anyone else.  We no longer have the option of ignoring the common good and of not attempting to make a contribution to our brothers and sisters in Christ. To do so would be to ignore that Christ whom we profess to love as we walk along the way, deciding whether or not to pass by on the other side!

This faith of ours makes many calls on us.  As Christians, as Catholics we know that our faith calls us to honesty and integrity, but above all to holiness – as the Catechism tells us, to ‘do the will of the Father in everything, that they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbour’ [Catechism para 2013.2014]. And of course the reality is that so many Catholics do recognise this.  They do make a significant contribution.  John XXIII wrote of this 50 years ago, in his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth.  Talking of human society, he said:

‘through it, in the bright light of truth, men should share their knowledge, be able to exercise their rights and fulfil their obligations, be inspired to seek spiritual values; mutually derive genuine pleasure from the beautiful, of whatever order it be; always be readily disposed to pass on to others the best of their own cultural heritage; and eagerly strive to make their own the spiritual achievements of others. These benefits not only influence, but at the same time give aim and scope to all that has bearing on cultural expressions, economic, and social institutions, political movements and forms, laws, and all other structures by which society is outwardly established and constantly developed’.

And so it is – the Catholic Church has a proud reputation in terms of its contribution to the development of society across the world.  In country after country its missionaries, lay and religious have established the schools, the hospitals, the health centres, the social centres, the programmes for the relief of poverty, the development of agriculture, all the structures of a modern society, and in so doing have contributed to the growth of society.  In saying this I do not ignore the terrible scourge of child abuse, or the unfaithfulness of some members of our church, nor do I ignore the shocking failures at the heart of the Vatican.  But it is important to remember the good that was done, the sacrifice which was made by so many here and in foreign lands.  We had African visitors last month, a man on his 40s, his wife and their four children.  we had known him as a very bright but very poor, and often hungry  schoolboy for whom education had brought liberation. He is now a civil engineer working on water projects across Africa, and he had  had travelled with his family across the world,  to see the place which had brought the missionaries who built the schools he had attended.  It was both warming and humbling to see our world through their eyes, and to sit around our dinner table as his little daughter prayed the grace, praying for me who had cooked her dinner, giving thanks to God for all the fun they had and praying for all the little children in the world who do not have enough to eat. Life brings us many blessings, doesn’t it?

We all have to make choices about what is right and that which we know to be unethical or wrong in legal or moral terms.   It can challenge us all.  We often don’t think of the consequences of our decisions.   We could decide to drive too fast.  We could decide not to point out to a waiter that fact that there are drinks missing from the bill when we get it.  We could conclude that the taxman does not need our money as much as we do, and not declare all our income.  All these things, and many many more, are not ways which we should behave if we are followers of the man who walked the dusty roads of the Holy Land for such a brief time, before he allowed himself to be taken away and crucified.

Faith calls us to walk in a different way, acknowledging our call to give all we have for others, even when it is inconvenient, or too demanding, or frightening, or even when we are just feeling a bit lazy.  Our faith, though, is not a threat to others though some may interpret it as such.  For all of us, but particularly for those who carry responsibilities as influencers of political, social and religious development, as decision makers, as representatives of authority, our lives as Catholics should  permeate and enable every part of our beings, every conscious thought.   When we feel isolated or concerned about our capacity to do what is right, we need only remember the words of Jesus on so many occasions: at the Transfiguration, when he walked on the water, when he met the women at the tomb who could not find his crucified body: ‘be not afraid’.  Those words have comforted men and women over the ages, they have comforted me when I have feared because of what my public life called me to do.  Jesus left us himself in word and sacrament, we know, and in the words of scripture we find not only challenge (and there is plenty of that) but also comfort and viaticum, food for the journey.    I was very privileged towards the end of his life to come to know Cardinal Daly  who was wonderfully supportive to me at times of difficulty.  He did not tolerate self pity or anything like that, but he would pray with such love to the Father, calling him so tenderly, Abba Father, and he would quote, with a twinkle in his eye St Paul, who said: ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me’ [Philippians 4:13].

Those called to public life in the world today will face many challenges.  The dilemmas are not new.  Speaking of this in Westminster Hall in 2010, Pope Benedict recalled:

‘the figure of Saint Thomas More, the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose “good servant” he was, because he chose to serve God first. He spoke of The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times, the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God’ .

He went on to say:

‘Religion… is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life’ [].

The call could not be clearer.  People do seek to put pressure, as they always have done,  on Christians to act against their conscience. We can see it in Ireland today in the context of the Heads of Bill on abortion.  There is no duty on the state under Human Rights Law to provide abortion on demand. The current proposals,  as they stand, would result in a situation in which  Ireland faces the prospect under the proposed law of terminating the pregnancy of a mother whose baby has been in her  womb for up to nine months, because she is threatening to commit suicide.  Women in this situation require every assistance and support, they need compassion and pragmatic solutions to the problems  they face. But to suggest that abortion will solve the problem of threatened suicide not only fails to acknowledge and protect the little child in her womb, but, as research in 2011 shows, actually  increases the risk of suicidal behaviour by 155%.

The reality is that the only way in which abortion can be conducted in the later stages of pregnancy is either through normal delivery or Caesarian Section.  The mother must give birth. She is carrying a child and what will be removed from her womb will not be foetal tissue, but will in most cases be very recognisable as a little boy or a little girl. Who in their right minds can believe that going through the process of giving birth to a little child, which is intended to die because it has been deliberately born too early, will bring peace of mind to a girl or woman who is suicidal?

We face difficult ethical and moral issues in the UK too.  I think of the Bill which has been laid before Parliament this session which will permit assisted suicide, and which we must both challenge and debate very soon.  I am very clear that this bill must not be passed because it will leave sick, elderly and vulnerable people in a perilous situation in which issues of financial costs of care, and decisions about the value of their lives could be made, which might lead to them being euthanased.  In the Netherlands where euthanasia is lawful the most recent Report on the matter stated that over 300 people were put to death without their consent.  As we contemplate the horrendous suffering of some individuals, and as in some cases they approach the courts and legislators seeking changes to the law to permit assisted suicide or euthanasia, there is a temptation to think that it would be the hallmark of a civilised society to allow them to die at a time and in the manner of their choosing.  But it is not as simple as that.   All human life is sacred to God.  It is not ours to dispose of.  Rather it is our duty on all occasions to do all we can to protect it.

It can be easy to take the articulated majority view on things.  For elected politicians there is a great temptation to vote and behave in a way which they think will secure their seats at the next election.  That is very human.  But the reality is  that those who speak loudest are not necessarily the majority.  They are simply the people who speak loudest.  They may be presenting considered views, but the legislator must look at the exact words of any proposed text and work out what they mean and what the consequences will be.  He  or she must then make decisions about how to act. An interesting document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued in 2002 is as resonant today on these issues as it was when it was issued:

‘The complex array of today’s problems branches out from here, including some never faced by past generations. Scientific progress has resulted in advances that are unsettling for the consciences of men and women and call for solutions that respect ethical principles in a coherent and fundamental way. At the same time, legislative proposals are put forward which, heedless of the consequences for the existence and future of human beings with regard to the formation of culture and social behaviour, attack the very inviolability of human life. Catholics, in this difficult situation, have the right and the duty to recall society to a deeper understanding of human life and to the responsibility of everyone in this regard. John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in law-making bodies have a «grave and clear obligation to oppose» any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.[19] As John Paul II has taught in his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae regarding the situation in which it is not possible to overturn or completely repeal a law allowing abortion which is already in force or coming up for a vote, «an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality»’ [Evangelium Vitae, 73  JPII from DOCTRINAL NOTE on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life].

It is very difficult to find one’s self in the position in which one must vote for something one knows to be wrong  in order to try and prevent a greater harm.  This is what John Paul was telling us we must do.

Baroness Nuala O'Loan

Baroness Nuala O’Loan

I think, too, of the Marriage (Same Sex) Bill which is currently before the House of Lords and on which I spoke and voted on Tuesday last. The Church is very clear in her teaching that those who have a same sex orientation must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity, and every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. The European Court of Human Rights stated in 2012 that there is no discrimination in excluding same sex couples from marriage.

The UK Government, in their rush to pass this legislation and to provide equality, as they describe it, for same sex couples, have produced a bill which will create two types of marriage – marriage between a man and a woman which will continue to involve a lifelong commitment, has a sexual aspect involving consummation, and has a presumption that the husband is the father of any child born to the mother during the marriage, and that the partners will remain loyal to each other. That legal definition of marriage is the same as the Catholic definition of marriage.  Under the proposed English Law there will then be a second type of marriage which will be between same sex couples, has no requirement for consummation, in which any child of a mother cannot be presumed to be the child of the other partner, and in which a same sex partner cannot be divorced on grounds of adultery with another same sex person.  Effectively as I said, there will be two sets of rules: one for same sex couples, one for opposite sex couples. Is this equality?  Can it be right?  Will it not lead to endless legal challenges as parties to one type of  marriage seek to assert rights against the UK government in the European Court which are available to parties in the other type of marriage but not to them.  And what does the proposed law do to the institution of marriage and its role in society?

These are the types of issues which legislators must face.  I often walk through Westminster Hall and pass the spot on which Thomas More faced the judges and was sentenced to death for his refusal to yield to Henry V111’s demands.  He could have lived had he denied his faith.  He chose to go to his death rather then deny God.  We do not face such challenges today in most parts of the world.  We are subject to all sorts of derision and to contempt however.  For elected politicians there is always the risk that doing the right thing will lead to loss of an election, status, income and their whole life style.  Politicians, like influences and decision makers everywhere need your prayers and your support.

For all of us, as we contemplate the richness and wonder of the faith that is ours, as we thank God for the beauty of our world, for the great gifts he has given us there is still a need to be aware that we must constantly and consciously, if we really are part of the body of Christ, live our lives in the constant awareness that we are in the presence of Christ.  If we do this we will lead lives of prayerful alertness.  We will acknowledge our obligation to understand the teaching of our church, to distinguish between that which is doctrinal and binding on us and that which has evolved and will continue to evolve.  Under Canon Law, Catholics should:

 ‘distinguish carefully between the rights and the duties which they have as belonging to the Church and those which fall to them as members of the human society. They will strive to unite the two harmoniously, remembering that in every temporal affair they are to be guided by a Christian conscience, since no human activity, even of the temporal order, can be withdrawn from God’s dominion’ [Catechism paras  912, 913].

‘Formation and enrichment’ of all members of the Church, John Paul II said  will enable ‘the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mould communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture’. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in 2004 that:

‘Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life. Catholics need to act in support of these principles and policies in public life. It is the particular vocation of the laity to transform the world’.

Finally then I want to return to that aspect of life which is critical for all of us  if we are to be able to fulfil this vocation which has so many aspects – from the call to holiness to the call to transform the world. We will only be able to do this if we make sure that we know that God holds us in the palm of his hand and if we make space in our lives for the Lord who loved us so much that he gave his life for us.  Maybe like me you can be very busy, you can feel that there is not much time for prayer, for reading of scripture, even for church and sacrament.  it is an easy trap to fall into.  The deepest traps are always the easiest to fall into, and the challenge for each of us is to ensure that we do not think that doing the work of the Lord is enough, that we pray by what we do and that will suffice.  We can delude ourselves, especially when things are going well.  We must make time too for the Lord of the work, for it is in and through and with Him that we will be able for the work, and that we will be gifted with that courage and energy which will enable us to do what we should do.

As we gather together today, we do so in hope: that hope of eternal life, which is already happening as we walk our journey home to God, for death it was written is an horizon  and “an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight” [Rossiter, W Raymond  1840-1918] but also in the hope that our Church, which has been much battered will grow stronger, more attuned to the call of scripture, and will be a body which truly is the body of Christ here on earth.   As Pope Francis said last week, the Church is ‘the work of God, born of His love and progressively built in history”  “born of God’s desire to call all men and women to communion with him, to friendship with him, even further, to participate as his children in his very divinity’.   

It is perhaps appropriate to end with some words which are attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo [354-430AD] :

‘God of our life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies grey and threatening; when our lives have no music in them,  and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have  lost their courage.  Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road of life, to Your honour and glory’.

Baroness Nuala O'Loan

Baroness Nuala O’Loan


All Hallows College, Dublin

All Hallows College, Dublin

Celebrating 125 years of the Irish Catholic newspaper, a conference was held at All Hallows College in Dublin entitled Horizon of Hope. I have only been there once or twice before. My uncle the late Fr Harry Smyth CM was a member of the Vincentian order and occasionally stayed there when visiting Dublin.

Fr Harry Smyth CM & his sister at time of ordination

Fr Harry Smyth CM & his sister at time of ordination

He was one of the 6000 Irish missionaries trained there who have been sent out into various countries over the past 170 years of the College. But now according to Fr Pat McDevitt CM, President of the College, said a different kind of missionary was needed for the world today: the students come from wide variety of communities.

Archbishop Charles Brown, Fr Pat McDevitt CM, John Waters

Archbishop Charles Brown, Fr Pat McDevitt CM, John Waters

One common interest among the “new” missionaries was concern for the needs of the poor, Fr McDevitt told the opening of #IC125. He was appointed to All Hallows in November 2001 when he was Associate Professor of Education at de Paul University in Chicago, his place of birth in the United States. The College is now part of Dublin City University and recently launched a plan to build its reputation as a centre of excellence for innovative teaching & learning, community-based service learning,  transnationality and applied/community-based research.

Editor, Irish Catholic: Michael Kelly

Editor, Irish Catholic: Michael Kelly

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown was introduced by the Editor of the Irish Catholic, Michael Kelly. He told the conference he saw signs of hope in Ireland during visits to dioceses: shoots of new life springing up. One of the signs of new hope is the Irish Catholic newspaper, the principal voice of Catholics in the print media, according to Archbishop Brown and the perfect answer to clericalism. Columnist John Waters then spoke. He said Catholicism had nourished Irish culture for 1500 years. In his address he also made the point that it was the absence of questions that was most terrifying: the questions that were being eliminated from our culture. A ‘benign tolerance’ towards Catholicism is the best you will get in the present day mainstream media, he said.

Sarah Carey

Sarah Carey

Breda O'Brtien

Breda O’Brtien

Breda O’Brien spoke about “Catholic spirituality — our best hope”. Despair is not an option a Christian can afford to indulge in”, she said. She said the huge sense of the sacred in our religion eg Eucharist/Holy Communion had been lost, a point also raised by an audience member. Sarah Carey’s presentation was about marketing the Mass. ESRI Mass attendance survey: 42% of Catholics weekly, mainly over 65s (70%).

Baroness Nuala O'Loan

Baroness Nuala O’Loan

Former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan spoke very strongly on the proposed change to Irish law on abortion in cases where a threat of suicide existed. For those who wish to see her comments, I have published her script in a later blog. Other contributors to the conference included writer, author and playwright Mary Kenny, David Quinn of the Iona Institute and a “Youth Perspective” delivered by Maura Garrihy who went on to participate in the Vigil for Life national rally and the Meath footballer Joe Sheridan. The conference was brought to a close with a panel discussion, chaired by Eileen Dunne, newscaster and presenter of “The God Slot” on RTÉ Radio 1.

Eileen Dunne chairing panel discussion

Eileen Dunne chairing panel discussion

David Quinn, Iona Institute with Michael Kelly, Irish Catholic

David Quinn, Iona Institute with Michael Kelly, Irish Catholic

Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny