Saturday, June 30, 2012

Reflection on Ireland trip

So I need to do a wrap-up on the Ireland trip. We got back on June 19 having left on June 1. In-between was friendship, breath-taking scenery, wonderful hospitality, and a retreat-like experience at the Eucharistic Congress.

First a little digression. The trip stumbled out of the gate when one of the  women in our group tripped getting off the bus at Toronto Airport. She seriously dislocated a finger, and feared missing the flight to Dublin. A Westjet employee saw the distress, and stepped in to help even though we were not Westjet customers. He called Emergency services and stayed with our member until they arrived. He later checked back to see she was ok. I told him we really appreciated what he was doing, and his employer would hear about it. I noted his name, and I wrote them when we got back. Here is the reply I got:

 It is wonderful to hear that one of our Customer Service Agents, Alexander, was able to provide such excellent service and help your travel partner.  We are grateful for both positive and negative feedback, but comments such as yours truly encourage all of us to do our WestJet best every day.  I have happily passed your feedback on to our Team Leaders so that the employee you mentioned can be recognized for his efforts.  I know that he will appreciate you taking the time to share your story.

The moral of the story is, let someone know when you have been treated 'above and beyond.' There is a happy employee in Toronto today, I think.

Back to Ireland. We returned from our eight-day tour of the south and west on Saturday June 9. We saw gorgeous vistas and much history. 1600 pictures, and yes we kissed the Blarney Stone. We have our sweaters from the Blarney Woollen Mills, and our pieces of Waterford crystal and Belleek china. Now back in Dublin, we spent the next week walking the three-km route to the Royal Dublin Society where the Congress was being held. (Go to Archdiocese of Kingston website for a sample of the pictures I took: Eucharist%20Congress%20-%20photos%20by%20Deacon%20Carney/index.htm ). I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but the program was a mixture of 'Catechesis' or teaching talks by Bishops from around the world, workshop sessions, and liturgies. The 'Eucharistic' theme allowed a focus on unity, ie communion, in the Catholic Christian community. Communion through the sacraments, the family, reconciliation, and so on. Bro Alois Loser, head of the ecumenical community Taize in France gave a great talk on extending communion outside denomination bounds, by focusing instead on our common Baptism. Insightful and thought-provoking. By the way, a lot of the talks are available from the IEC (International Eucharistic Congress) site, and are additionally on You Tube. Bro Alois is one of them.

Another focus was the sexual abuse scandal - crisis - in Ireland. I had no idea how badly the Catholic Church in Ireland had been rocked by this. Falling church attendance and deep cynicism have been the result. Against that, Archbishop Martin of Dublin established a tone of openness and sincere apology. What he and Cardinal Brady added - that all Ireland were waiting to hear - was an apology for how badly it had all been handled, ie with cover-ups and so on. Archbishop Martin has been very open since he came on the scene, and I would recommend you have a look at an interview he did with CBS a little while ago ( . Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, Philippines, gave a very thoughtful talk at the Congress in which he said the crisis in the priesthood is way bigger than the sexual abuse scandal. There is a systemic element to it that includes handling of finances, rudeness, bad preaching, and abuse of trust in general. He had recommendations for screening, formation programs, post-formation programs, and education of Bishops. (Here is a link to the text of his talk:

Here is a link to the IEC directory of talks that are available for download:

There were in the order of 15,000 people per day at the Congress, and I understand 20-25 thousand at the opening ceremony. The closing Mass and ceremony were at Croke Park, and it was filled close to capacity of 80,000.  A dawning awareness over the week was how big the Catholic community is worldwide. We sat next to people from Australia, Kenya, England, Germany, USA, and Killarney just down the road. A wonderful shot in the arm of reassurance and strength and confidence that we all believe in this and the Holy Spirit is leading us. Whatever would we fear? The sad thing is that we are so capable of screwing it all up.

Last note of historic significance. Myself became a senior citizen whilst in Dublin. Have the official picture of the Guinness in hand, taken at the Hairy Lemon Pub. As they say at the bar, "And for yourself.....?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Update from Ireland

Wednesday evening June 13. Back at the hotel after another great day at the Eucharistic Congress here in Dublin. The forecast of 25000 per day looks like it is happening. Never saw so many religious habits (they wear them in the streets here) or Bishops and Cardinals in my life. If you remember World Youth Day and catechesis sessions, they are being done here as well, and always by a Bishop or Cardinal. Impressive for the most part. Great workshop session by the Archbishop of Manilla in the Philippines on child sexual abuse by clergy. Really excellent. And the Archbishop of Dublin opened the whole thing on the first day by wading right into it. People have welcomed the openness.

In all, a very uplifting experience of the universal church. Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Kenya, Philippines, USA, Canada, and on and on and on. Tremendous shot in the arm to have that kind of solidarity. The Irish people are solid, if a little conservative. I have had the privilege of being deacon at four Masses over here, in different churches on our tour (Killarney Cathedral was unbelievable). I have registered as clergy and so obtained the beautiful deacon stole they are giving out at the Congress. But having had the opportunity to be deacon on our tour, I have decided to emphasize the sacrament of marriage at this point, and am attending daily Mass at the side of my missus.

The walk from the hotel is 3 km each way and we have been grateful to do that twice a day. The food we have consumed here is incredible. Couple of days ago we got away at 240 in the afternoon. Zipped over to Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells. Then we walked up to Temple Bar and hit a couple of pubs including the Temple Bar pub. The music on the street and in the pubs in Temple Bar is tremendous. May make a return trip on Monday and make that my birthday venue.

Had dinner last night with the whole group, and Archbishop O’Brien. Great evening and the Archbishop bought wine all round. First steak of the trip for me because I could not eat steak and have three whole meals a day. Just try it sometime. You could put on weight with the Irish breakfast alone we are having every day.

More later.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Breathtaking Ireland

We are in Ireland for the Eucharistic Congress which began today, Sunday June 10, 2012.

For the past eight days, though, we have toured Ireland and been thoroughly won over by her incredible beauty. I do not even know what word to use to describe it. If you have been here, you know. And if your heritage is Irish – which both Peggy and I share – then you have this enchanting sense that you have come home. Your suspicion is confirmed when you meet the locals and tell them your name and perhaps your mother’s name. In my case, Carney and Keogh. Right away they start telling you where you came from. County Wicklow, County Clare, County Cork. They know about the famine, for sure. And in New Ross there is a replica of the ships that took the starving emigrants to Canada. The mind starts seeing it happen. ...... My own family on my mother’s side came over both before and during the potato famine (1840’s), as I understand it.

In County Clare and County Mayo you see the mountains. Rocky terrain with mile after mile of stone fences three or four feet high. Again – you see the work going on, in your mind’s eye. And you see the potato fields half way up the mountains. What? Yes that’s right. The land so poor, you see why potatoes were so important.

The other side of Ireland is its ancient history. 1800’s is recent history! You go back to Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell. Monasteries burned, people slaughtered. Centuries of ‘troubles’ and hatred thereafter. You tour the monasteries with their stone-wall ruins. Many dating to centuries before Cromwell. We toured Glendalough, Jerpoint, Cashel, Clonmacnoise and others. How did those early monks find these places? In the middle of what would have been nowhere? I do not know, but there is a theme. High elevations and rivers or lakes. Almost always making for breath-taking views. And speaking of breath-taking views, the Ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher must hold best in show honours for the whole world.

So now we are back in Dublin. This week is the Eucharistic Congress, and today was opening day with people attending from around the world. Royal Dublin Society Stadium held a huge crowd for a powerful opening ceremony that included Mass presided by Cardinal Ouellet (Canada), said to be a candidate for the papacy. Don’t know about that but I must say two highlights did not involve him, and came right at the beginning, before Mass when Bishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin went straight to the point about the illegal and immoral behaviour of members of the clergy in Ireland against those who should be protected and loved as Christ loved – children. A moving and sincere confession before all the world. Then some youth addressed the same topic, and I think these youth may have been victims. They laid it at the feet of the Church, and apparently they had composed a prayer meant to be said by a repentant Church. I intend to get a copy of that prayer, but I bet it is already in newspapers around the world.

Oh yes. Today was also the first day of the Euro soccer tournament for the Ireland team playing in Poland. Had dinner upstairs in a pub and watched Ireland go out of its mind. Bit like Canada-Russia hockey in 1972 in its intensity. Great to be part of it. More to follow.