There were joyous scenes in Kilrea as Rev. Malachy Gallagher - Deacon at St. Eugene’s Cathedral for the past year - was ordained by Bishop Donal McKeown in the presence of his family and friends in his home parish.
The 33-year-old qualified speech therapist, who has worked with missionaries in Chicago and Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin, was joined at St. Mary’s, Drumagarner, by proud parents Colum and Teresa Gallagher and sister and brother, Lisa and Gerard.
During the ordination service on Sunday, Bishop McKeown referred to Father Gallagher’s linguistic background while suggesting that through his service in the Parish of Templemore over the past year, he’s been learning a new language.
“Malachy, you once trained as a speech therapist. Then, while studying in Taiwan you learned Mandarin Chinese. But over the past years, God has been teaching you to speak a new language so you can help others, especially after they have been hit by the paralysis that comes from sin, abuse or distance from God,” he said.
“Building up a family around Jesus who is the eldest of many brothers and sisters will be difficult.
“It is not easy to help people learn and practice the new language of grace. Many people are hurt and distrustful.
“But keep building up in people the belief that they are called to be true images of the Son of God. Build them into communities of disciples and, through their belonging, build them into missionaries who will speak this new language,” added Bishop McKeown.
The concregation heard how an ordination to the priesthood was a wonderful occasion during which a person felt enthused about a life-long commitment to a particular way of life.
However, Bishop McKeown said Fr. Gallagher should be under no illusions but that his vocation was a ‘counter-cultural’ one in increasingly secular times.
“In an age of radical uncertainty about what the years ahead might hold, and a philosophy of truth that is based on ‘my feelings’ being infallible, it is profoundly counter-cultural when someone is not afraid of commitment and is deeply in love with the Lord who calls them to walk forward in trust, whatever the future might hold.
“That person is blessed to believe that a crisis is not so much sign that they made a bad decision as a test of their commitment. The Lord tests those whom He loves,” said Bishop McKeown.
Fr. Gallagher was told that his own heart and the grace of God would guide him in his ministry.
Addressing him directly, Bishop McKeown said: “Your greatest asset as a priest will not be your theology qualifications but that Christ-like heart which people see in you.
“The greatest wisdom you will have to offer will come from a heart that knows and loves Jesus. Otherwise you are offering just yourself – and talented though you may be, you have no power to save the world!”
Bishop McKeown said Fr. allagher should not be afraid to bring the church’s own teaching and philosophy to bear on important matters of public affairs.
“Your ministry will often not be welcome because Jesus’ message says that the world will not be saved by better laws, more things or new political units. The world will be healed by virtue in the human heart and not just by legislation in human parliaments. Poverty and war will not be overcome merely by more collections, taxes or philanthropy but by the remaking of the human heart through grace.,” he said.
“A New Ireland will never be created through political changes alone but when human hearts are softened. A New Ireland, ruled by old hard hearts, will never make us humane. After all, when the personal God is banished to the sidelines, the human person does not become the focus of attention.
“Rather we place our trust in impersonal human structures out there as if they could save us from ourselves. Trust in the wisdom of God who calls you today – even when your living and proclamation of the Gospel leaves you feeling abandoned in Gethsemane or in agony on Calvary. For God will be in your pain, uncertainty and panic.”