Witnessed Northern Ireland peace process from beginning to end
Limerick Post exclusive
by Brian McLaughlin
“SOMETHING has gone radically wrong in the psyche of people who are involved in the killings and feuding in the city…they have no regard for human life”.
That is the observation of Limerick native Fr Adrian Egan, C.S.s.R,, who recently took up the position of Rector at Mount St. Alphonsus
Continuing, he said: “Its complex and tied into criminality, gangs and feuds. You have to say that this is wrong, there is something evil in it, something has taken hold of peoples’ hearts.
“Its tragic – peoples’ lives are being lost and the souls of those who are doing it are being lost, they are losing their souls,’” he added in an exclusive interview.
Previous to moving back to his home city, he was based at Clonard Monastery in Belfast, and was at Milltown Cemetery when Michael Stone attacked a funeral, in which three people were killed.
When he was coming to Limerick, “people were saying to me it was a dangerous place to go to, which was ironic, and showed the reputation Limerick had with the people of West Belfast.
“I think Limerick has had its fair share of violence. You got used to that in Belfast and never expected it to take place here,” he said.
From Greystones in the city, where his parents Pat and Rose live, he was educated at the Salesian Convent, JFK boys primary school and completed his secondary education at St. Clements Redemptorist College in the last year the college had boarders.
He joined The Order and studied for his B.A. at UCG, which included Philosophy. He did his Novitiate year in St. Joseph’s in Dundalk, and studied Theology in Kimmage Manor in Dublin.
He was based for two years in Clonard and was ordained in 1989. “It was a very difficult time in Belfast and I was in Milltown cemetery when Michael Stone attacked the funeral and killed three people. There were two very tense years after the hunger strikes, a lot of violence, death and bombings.
“It was a fascinating time to be there, and our church was straddled the peace line. Our back windows looked over the Shankill Road and the bonfires were lighting and the bands playing just over the wall on the 12th.
“A young 15-year-old year-old was shot on the steps of the church which started the troubles in 1969. There is a famous picture of one of our priest’s holding his head and anointing him,” he recalled.
Fr. Egan revealed that a lot of the negotiations and meetings were held in the Redemptorist monastery when the peace process started. “You got to know the people and Clonard was considered a very trusted meeting place where people could consult in confidentiality. I saw that process from beginning to end”.
Returning to his remarks on the feuding in Limerick he declared: “Having said all that I love being back in Limerick. There is the comfort of being back home again and there is the goodness of the people of Limerick”.
‘Mount St Alphonsus is a very sacred place’
FR. Egan, who completed a course in psychotherapy and counselling, is conscious of the fact that coming back as Rector is a huge responsibility, with the Mount St. Alphonsus community numbering 25, with five under 70 years of age.
“Its an active community, very warm and hospitable. We have constant visitors from abroad members of the Order who come here to learn English, and men on the missions coming back to stay and get some rest”.
Referring to the monastery, he said: “This place has meant so much to me growing up – the sense of the wonder of Mount St. Alphonsus, the kindness of the place, a very sacred space and people coming with their problems”.
He highlighted the Christmas Poor campaign, stating that the need for it was just as great as ever if not greater than before. “People who donated in the past are now coming back for help with mortgages and people have become unemployed. People are still incredibly generous and there is still that goodness in people who want to help and give.
“Christmas has become a very pressurised time and we are putting on a mission for five days, starting next Monday, December 15, until Friday 19, with three sessions a day.
“We are inviting people to take time out from what can be the crazy build up to Christmas and help them refocus on what Christmas is about and they are prepared for it and open to it. It’s a chance for people to slow down and take time out and space,” he added.
The forty-six year-old Rector pointed out that the Redemptorists have been in Limerick since 1851, the first house in Ireland. “In the last year we have seen how the Jesuits and Franciscans have left their churches, which is a tremendous loss to the city. We need the presence of religious communities and we are committed to staying in Limerick.
“That is demonstrated in our new state-of-the-art school and the renovations to the church and the development in which the monastery is going to be updated to cater for the needs of the community and provide ministerial space for the people. All these things is our way of saying we are staying here.
“The people of Limerick have been very good to us and we are going to be here for another couple of hundred years. You couldn’t imagine Limerick without Mount St. Alphonsus. It’s a place where people are always welcome no matter where they are from”.
He pointed to the fact that six live webcams are located in the church where people can view live everything that is taking place in the church at any given time.
The website is www.novena.ie, and the Redemptorists, known as ‘The Fathers’ in the city, were the leaders in this and they have had feedback from people from places like Australia, Africa and Eastern Europe.
On the sporting front Fr. Egan is a big Munster and Young Munster supporter. His brother-in-law, Fergal Deegan, was a recent President of Young Munster, and Mike Lynch, a PE teacher at St.Clements, is the Young Munster senior team coach.
He has three sisters Caroline, Philomena and Catriona, and a brother Pat, and three nieces and two nephews. His family has a long-standing connection with Young Munster and his father is a trustee of St. Michael’s Rowing Club, where he met his wife Rose.
A golfer, Fr. Egan ‘loves music’ and has a keen interest in church music giving people a sense of participation. “I am a singer inside the church and have been known to sing outside as well,” he concluded with a smile, and it was then off to Greenfields to see Young Munster take on Dungannon.