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.....?"

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