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Meet the five men ordained to the priesthood this week

Amanda Connelly and Peter Diamond caught up with Scotland's newest clergy to learn of their journeys to the priesthood.

Fr Charles Coyle, Motherwell Diocese

What are you most looking forward to in your ministry?

Just getting on with the work now is what I’m looking forward to. Helping people, administering to the sick and celebrating Mass —that is such a privilege. It’s so exciting just to celebrate Mass and particularly being able to visit the sick who are housebound and bring Christ’s joy to His people.

 

How/when did you decide you wanted to be a priest?

I always thought about it. I was studying up until I was 30 and I thought if I reached 30 and it was still calling me I would have to test that because I knew at that point the call to priesthood was something that wasn’t going to leave me.

I think also when I knew exactly that I had to do this was when I was in Donegal visiting my great uncle who lived there, he had taken unwell very suddenly when I was visiting and I sat and held his hand from the afternoon one day until the next morning when he passed away and it did feel like I helped him on his way back to God.

That for me was a life-changing experience and I was thinking about him quite a lot during my ordination Mass.

In fact, the cross on my ordination vestments is the Carndonagh Cross, a Celtic one, taken from the town where my family are from, and where my uncle stayed.

He was a bachelor in the family and was much loved by us all.

 

What did you do before becoming a priest?

Before I studied for the priesthood I was studying botany and horticulture. In 1995 I got an apprenticeship with Glasgow City Council to study horticulture and then in 2001 I studied down south in Guildford for a diploma at the Royal Horticulture Society.

In 2003 I was then studying a masters in botany at Reading University, and thereafter I was at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens and then studied at St Andrew’s University, too.

I always thought one day I’d end up in a Mediterranean country studying plants because that is a great passion of mine and I’m still very interested in it. But now I’m a priest, and what a joy it is to serve Christ.

I’ve had a blessed life and another exciting chapter is just beginning.

 

What was the most rewarding thing about living in Rome?

Undoubtedly just being in the capital city of the Church is the best thing, studying at the university and being so close to both popes.

You do tend to take it for granted but all aspects of that experience really enrich your Faith.

We were right at the centre of the Church and if ever there was a problem that needed prayers you were never too far away from St Peter’s Basilica where you could just pop in for a quick prayer, and that was a great privilege.

 

What was the most challenging aspect of being away from home for so long?

I think being away from home will always throw up the usual things, like missing my family.

My sisters have had children, so being away from them was never easy. It is hard work but I always reminded myself that parishioners are paying for us to be in Rome—what a gift for us that is and what a reward it would be for them for me to go back as a priest. So in a way it was not very difficult.

 

What advice would you give to other people considering a vocation?

Try and listen and especially try hard to pray. I know that is difficult for many people nowadays as we are often consumed by phones or social media, but if you start by going to Church it can build inside you.

Get to know your parish priest or a Brother or Religious Sister and ask them about their life.

Prayer is definitely the most important aspect about discerning a vocation and even if you start with something simple like the Rosary that will help you, there is nothing better you can do with your life.

 

Who has played a key role in helping you become a priest?

My former parish priest Mgr Gibbons and current parish priest Fr Hennessy have been terrific influences on my Faith life.

My mother and father are my closest friends and have been totally supportive of me in my decision for priesthood along with my sisters. I’ve really known love my entire life so I’m very blessed.

Through my studies though you then realise that the relationship with Christ is the most important you can develop and then Christ enriches those relationships. He is the centre.

 

Fr Kieran Hamilton, Motherwell Diocese

What are you most looking forward to in your ministry to the priesthood?

I think bringing people the healing and mercy of God through the Sacraments of Confession and the Sacrament of the Sick are the two things I’m looking most forward to administering.

 

When and how did you decide the priesthood was something you wanted to pursue?

I think whenever I went to Lourdes aged 18 was probably the first time I really recognised it as something I wanted to do but I felt it had been something within me before then.

In Lourdes you are amongst other young Catholics, you see parish priests in action and you see different types of priests, young not just old, and I think there I got a sense of the brotherhood that binds all priests.

I went with Motherwell Diocese during the summer pilgrimage but I now also travel out with HCPT at Easter.

 

What did you do before becoming a priest?

I studied Early Years Education after secondary school and went to seminary in 2012 aged 22. I was accepted when I was 21.

The process is fairly straightforward: you speak to the diocese vocations director and spend time discerning the decision and then you get a chance to meet like-minded individuals through the Priests for Scotland weekends. It was simple but enjoyable.

 

Where did you study and what was it like there?

I spent six years at Oscott Seminary in Birmingham. It was a fun city, you got to see different parts of culture and the Church while you are at seminary.

I found the differences between the Church in Scotland and England interesting but also the similarities and the idea of the universal Church were fascinating.

In Pastores Dabo Vobis, St Pope John Paul II described the principal foundations for priestly formation in four ways: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. In Oscott there is a real emphasis on human formation and celibacy.

Whilst there I took part in retreats and extended time of prayer.

 

What was the most challenging aspect of seminary?

I think the academics were perhaps the toughest part of being in seminary because there is a lot to learn in quite a short space of time.

Some of the concepts are challenging but because it’s God, the Faith, you love it. It never becomes too much trouble.

I was always constantly reminding myself that I was striving to serve and that was something which kept me going.

 

What advice would you give to other men thinking about the priesthood?

Some advice, which I was given many years ago from a friend, was ‘listen to your heart that is all you can do, God’s will shall navigate the path.’ People should listen to their heart and don’t be scared because that is not how God works. You can’t be scared of the Father’s plan.

 

Who has played a key role in helping you become a priest?

My family passed on my Faith to me and have been a tremendous support to me in my vocation. Also my parish priest, Fr Kenny Campbell, has been a great role model and has always offered me experience of parish life during my formative years.

Those experiences helped me recognise what is required in the everyday role of a priest. You don’t get that experience at seminary.

My rector Fr David Oakley was a great father figure throughout my years at Oscott too, he is a local Brummy and is a very relaxed man.

 

What is your favourite part of the Church calendar?

I love the Triduum at Easter and the rich tapestry of the Liturgy during that time. Church history was my favourite subject in seminary and everything dates back to Christ and everything in the Church tends to flow from Easter.

 

Fr Patrick Harrigan, St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese

Fr Patrick Harrigan was told to ‘imitate the Sacred Heart of the Lord’ as he was ordained on Friday June 28.

Fr Harrigan was ordained for St Andrews & Edinburgh at St Mary’s Cathedral. The Ordination Mass took place on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with Archbishop Leo Cushley telling Patrick to give his ‘whole heart’ to the work of the sacred priesthood.

 

Devotion

“Imitate the Sacred Heart of the Lord, whose sacrifice on the Cross, mingled with water and blood, reminds us not just of his love for all, but of the means by which that love is still communicated today, that is the Sacraments, especially when celebrated with a single-minded devotion,” Archbishop Cushley said.

He also called on Patrick to be an ‘exemplary pastor of souls,’ adding ‘in that way, and with God’s grace at hand, you will be a good man, a holy priest and a great comfort to souls, no matter how sweet or bitter their circumstances.’

Fr Harrigan’s first blessing as a priest was to mum Eileen and sister Bernadette, before he blessed friends and other members of the congregation.

 

Word of God

Speaking prior to the ordination, Fr Harrigan said he was most looking forward to ‘being able to offer people access to the Sacraments—especially to the Eucharist and to Reconciliation—to catechesis and to preaching and teaching the Word of God.’

During his long vocation journey he had worked as a teacher and was a student for the Carmelites in Osterley in England, from 1980-83. He spent four years studying for the priesthood at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome, taking further studies for a licence degree at the Angelicum University in the city.

Douglas Greene, a first year student at the Beda College said: “I spent a year with Patrick at the Beda and he has become a good friend, as well as a mentor. He’s always positive and is now looking forward to doing God’s work. It’s been such an uplifting evening.”

Fr Harrigan has been appointed as assistant priest at St Mary’s in Stirling.

 

Fr Willie McQuillan, St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese

What are you most looking forward to in your ministry?

Just getting started. It’s been a long journey. I first considered priesthood 25 years ago, in fact I first met the priest who vested me at my ordination, Fr Chris Heenan, back then when we were students together at seminary.

 

When did you decide to become a priest?

Probably initially when I was at school, but I resisted making any serious commitment to it until my late forties when I stopped giving myself excuses not to.

 

What did you do before studying for the priesthood?

Many different things over the years, mostly in hospitality and customer service. Immediately before going to seminary I was a postman.

 

What’s been the best thing about living in Rome?

There are so many things: the history, food, culture and the international community in our college. But mostly, it’s been the privilege of studying so close to our Holy Father Pope Francis who has been an important factor in my decision to become a priest.

 

Can you describe some of the best moments?

Finding yourself in many unforgettable unique situations over the four years there, like the opening of the Holy Door during the Year of Mercy jubilee in 2016 and meeting the Holy Father during the Scottish Bishops’ ad limina visit last year.

 

And the most challenging?

The way of life can sometimes feel a little more disorganised, but you get used to it. Also, having to compress a lot of studies and formation into four years. Oh, and the mosquitoes!

 

What advice would you give to someone considering the priesthood?

It may seem strange coming from someone my age, but don’t feel you have to wait forever until everything is 100 per cent clear and certain about the future. Just trust in God and make that leap of Faith.

Fr Willie McQuillan was ordained after the SCO went to press. He will be assistant priest at St Francis Xavier’s in Falkirk.

 

Fr Mark O’Donnell, Motherwell Diocese

How are you feeling ahead of the ordination? Are you looking forward to it?

I’m looking forward to tomorrow night, but I’m also a bit anxious. I am planning on spending a few hours in Carfin in front of the Blessed Sacrament to prepare myself.

 

What has your journey been like from being a seminarian up until this point?

It’s been a long journey in many respects, and it feels a bit surreal to be at this point and think that I am going to be a priest.

It’s even weirder thinking that I am not going back to Rome, when it’s been basically my permanent residency for seven years.

 

Were there any particular things that influenced you in your decision to become a priest?

I have very much been influenced by trips to Lourdes, and sustained on this journey by Our Lady.

The experiences in Lourdes with ALMA and with HCPT have always buoyed me! I’ve also been inspired by many friendships and examples of priests.

Fr Mark O’Donnell was ordained after the SCO went to press.

 

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