Derry JOURNAL Editorial : Father Neal Carlin - A true visionary who saved many lives

Sometimes in the course of your work as a journalist you meet people who leave an indelible mark and you carry the memory of the encounter with you your life. Fr Neal Carlin was such a man.

Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 4:58 pm
A man of God, a man of the people: Father Neal Carlin. (1305PG08)

Back in 2008, I visited Fr Carlin at the then newly completed eight-acre Island of Saints and Scholars (IOSAS) sanctuary at Derryvane, Muff close to the border above Galliagh, which he referred to back then as his ‘fourth vision’. Fr Carlin spoke of how he had been directed by God to help establish a number of centres for people locally. He was a man with a mission and in the late 70s left his parish to explore Christian communities in the US and Mexico before returning home and in 1980 forming the Columba Community. A charismatic man, he soon enlisted the help of many volunteers to repair the building in Derry. Having spent ministering to prisoners in Long Kesh, he never ceased in his crusade to help promote the healing of divisions and the healing of people, setting up St Anthony’s retreat centre near Burnfoot in early 1980s before in the late 1990s establishing the 60-bed White Oaks Centre. Through these crucial projects, Fr Carlin and his willing bands of volunteers - some of whom were themselves were people he had helped bring back from the brink - saved many lives.

The IOSAS garden sanctuary today provides respite for anyone and everyone. It is a remarkable and singular achievement, just as his other fulfilled visions have been. Dedicated to the Irish saints and built on a ‘thin’ place where our ancient ancestors held heaven and earth were closest, Fr Carlin’s vision and presence are everywhere. It weaves together the natural world with the spiritual, the Celtic and the Christian. It is a still, natural place of tranquillity with the power to quiet the mind in a fast-paced world. It is only part of his legacy but a part everyone can benefit from.

Fr Carlin was a true man of God, a true man of the people, a giant and a visionary. And his legacy will live on for generations to come.

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Members of the St Columba's Pageant committee, pictured at Columba House. Included, from left, are Mary Murphy, Pauline Ross, Ann McCay, fr Neal Carlin, Joe Connolly, Joe Carlin and Marguerite Hamilton. (2601SL22)

Brendan McDaid

Editor, Derry Journal.

John Curtin, left, Derry Junior Chamber business development officer, and Thomas Wylie, international director, present Father Neal Carlin from White Oaks Treatment Centre, Muff, with a cheque for £700, money raised by fourteen members of Derry Junior Chamber who climbed Mount Errigle in the first of a series of climbs for their nomiated charity for 2007. (2007PG44)
Fr. Neal Carlin, Spritual Director, with sculptor Maurice Harron, pictured at the new sculpture of the Crucifixion at the Celtic Prayer Garden, Derryvane, Muff. (2505C47)