Northern ministry flourishing

June 26, 2024 in Featured News, News

The AGM of The Dialogue for Diversity programme » headed up by Brian Lennon SJ in Armagh, took place this year on Friday 7 June 2024 via Zoom. The programme focuses on prisoners, peacemaking, care of the earth, and community development in Northern Ireland. As board chair, Tom Layden SJ asked various people to report on their group projects over the year.

In his prison visitation», Osmond Mulligan gave a brief overview of the prison project in which five mentors meet prisoners or ex-prisoners to help and support them in any way they can. The support workers are cross-communit,y but Osmond says they are having difficulty recruiting non-Catholic mentors.

One of the ex-prisoners Osmond works with now has his own home and freely says those who have helped him most have been Christian workers. But Osmond also spoke of his concern about the lack of accommodation for newly released prisoners, some of whom are ending up on the streets or in hostels. He underlined the importance of non-judgemental love and acceptance being offered to offenders who are being welcomed back into the community.

As well as the physical and psychological needs of prisoners being addressed, the spiritual needs are the subject of concern for Martina Killeevy. Martina is the author of a book on Ignatian spirituality and the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. She told the meeting that her programme of delivering the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius to prisoners in jail is ongoing, and the feedback from the prisoners is positive.

Martina’s book, Freedom from the Prison of Addiction: Spiritual and Secular Wisdom, is published by Messenger Publications ». It is based on workshops she delivered with Brian Lennon SJ in Maghaberry Prison, using both the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius and the Twelve Steps. It’s written in simple language, with a foreword by Greg Boyle SJ and an afterword by Peter McVerry SJ.

Because of a bequest by Portadown woman Peggy McCorry ( a long-time supporter of this northern ministry) a researcher will soon start work on a prison reform project. The number of prisoners currently held in Maghaberry prison is 1,350. It should be 750. The researchers role is to present data that will assist in significantly reducing the number of prisoners on remand.

Tom Layden SJ invited Rosemary Murray to speak. She oversees many of the projects, including the ACRE project » which was set up by the Jesuits in Northern Ireland in 2020 to support and encourage ground-level groups to save the planet ‘from burning and drowning’ at the same time. It works out of the vision of Laudato ‘Sí »Pope Francis’ letter on caring for the earth, our common home.

Rosemary says she was deeply encouraged by all the work that was being undertaken. She is particularly heartened by how all the staff actively ask for the help of God in their work and for the ability to discern what they can do best in their various projects.

She noted how the work of Ciarán McLarnon in the ACRE project is moving ‘full steam ahead’ through phase two and into phase three (see photo). Ciaran was invited to speak to these developments and you can read about them here »

The AGM concluded with Brian Lennon thanking all those who are part of the Dialogue for Diversity Project. A common theme throughout the meeting was the gratitude those same participants felt towards Brian himself for his expertise and support.