‘Fearless models of peace inspired me’

Archbishop Eamon Martin has told the people of Derry how he was inspired by the leadership qualities of the courageous people in his community while he was growing.

In a Mass celebrated in St Eugene’s Cathedral last night, part of the Archbishop’s first official visit to his home town, Father Martin said: “Growing up during troubled times for Derry, I was inspired by people who were fearless role models of peace, healing and reconciliation, even when it was not popular to be so.”

He said his trip home to Derry gave him an opportunity to thank God for all the good and saintly people whose witness and example helped to shape his life.

He added: “Since becoming a bishop, I have often been asked when and how I found my vocation. Even though I sometimes find it difficult to answer precisely, I am convinced that I heard the call to priesthood in the gentle witness and holiness of the good people who surrounded me with love and prayer and who quietly encouraged me to consider giving my life to God in this way. My family and friends, my teachers at St Patrick’s Primary School Pennyburn and St Columb’s College, not only taught me about my faith, but through them I also came to experience faith in the humble example of the people of this City.

“And when I first began to think seriously of the priesthood, I saw in the holy and dedicated lives of so many good priests and religious that following God’s call may be difficult at times, but it is a life which brings you joy, fulfilment and happiness.

“Above all, my vocation and my ministry as a priest has been sustained by the prayers of so many people. Not only in my early days studying for the priesthood, but every day since ordination I feel uplifted by a cushion of prayer which helps me to be faithful to my ministry, to hopefully exercise good judgement and make the right decisions, and to be happy in myself. I deeply appreciate the many messages of prayer and support that I received from Derry when I left the oak leaf county to live among the orchards of Armagh. I know that I am a sinner and that I have sometimes hurt people and made many mistakes in my life, but time and again, strengthened by the grace of the sacrament of Confession, and lifted up by the encouraging words of others, I have experienced the touch of God’s mercy and forgiving love. Never underestimate the power of your prayer to help someone, and the effects which an encouraging word from you can have on another person. Never think that you are not good enough and holy enough to be a saint. The grace of God is there for all of us who turn to him.”

Formal visit of Archbishop Eamon Martin to his native Diocese

Bishop Donal McKeown said: “Archbishop Eamon has just returned from the Synod of Bishops in Rome at which he played an important role as Chair of one of the 13 discussion groups, where much of the work was undertaken. He has indicated to the press that he wishes to ‘hit the ground running’ now that he is back from Rome. At the Mass, we pray together for his key mission of offering pastoral and theological leadership to the whole Church in Ireland.”