OBITUARY: Fr Thomas McNulty (1933-2024)

Fr Thomas McNulty was a caring, humorous, and holy man who wanted to be a priest from a young age.

He was dedicated and happy in his role as a pastor of souls and continued to be active in ministry long after his official retirement.

Thomas McNulty was born in Chicago in 1933 to parents John and Jean who had emigrated from Scotland and he was baptised at St Cyril’s in the city.

They returned to Scotland in 1937 and the family, including his four sisters (Margaret, Mary, Frances and Sally) lived in the Sighthill area of Edinburgh.

Thomas attended St John's in Portobello (1938-1940) and Holy Cross in Edinburgh (1940-45) before heading to Blairs College, the junior seminary in Aberdeenshire.

He would joke that when considering his vocation, he approached his parish priest and said: “Father, I've got half a mind to become a priest”. “That's good, son,” the priest replied, “it's all you’ll need!”

Priesthood

He studied for the priesthood at St Sulpice in Paris (1951-56) and was ordained at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh in 1956 alongside his good friend Fr James Friel (1933-2019).

He served in seven parishes in the Archdiocese: St Mary, Kirkcaldy (1956-1963), St Bernadette, Larbert (1963-1969), St Columba, Edinburgh (1969-1972), Our Lady & St Margaret, Duns (1972-1984) St Kentigern, Edinburgh (1984-1998), Sacred Heart, Penicuik (1998-2001) and Our Lady of the Waves, Dunbar (2002-2006), from where he retired.

Fr Tom’s longest appointment was at St Kentigern’s, and parishioners have fond memories of his time there.

When he first arrived to begin his ministry, a parishioner offered to help fetch his bags not knowing that all his belongings were in the one bag he was already carrying.

He managed to strike the balance of being sociable and approachable while also enjoying his own company and long walks (he would often head into the Pentland hills with his dog, and at one time had a camper van to take him further afield).

He was a prayerful man who enjoyed a joke and was known for having a good rapport with the children.

At one Good Friday service, he pleased the parents of a young girl who was crying following the death of Jesus by reassuring her that Jesus would be back on Sunday!

He had a good cohort of altar servers and would treat them with a trip to the panto each Christmas, followed by fish and chips. Two of his former servers later invited him to minister at their respective weddings.

Fr Tom stands above his fellow clergy as they enjoy time together.

Parishioners also remember him sending sick people and helpers to Lourdes and he was faithful to the Archdiocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage.

Fr Tom was a strong singer and put together a talented group at St Kentigern’s to provide music at Mass. Although he lived fairly frugally he enjoyed his pipe, a good red wine and fine cheese.

Retirement

After retirement he stayed for a time at St Margaret’s in Davidson’s Mains and then in Ratho before moving to Holy Cross Parish in the Warriston area in 2008. Fr Daniel Doherty, parish priest of Holy Cross at the time, described him as a “quiet, cheery and prayerful presence”.

He said: “He was very supportive to me and was concerned about my workload and offered to help out throughout his time at the parish. He was a very wise man, a bit like a grandfather figure in the parish.”

Fr Tom celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination in 2016 at St Joseph’s House, the former care home and residence run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Gilmore Place, Edinburgh.

Archbishop Leo Cushley wrote to him at the time saying: “Your continued hard work, and your positive and youthful attitude surely flow from a deep understanding to which you have come, after many years at the altar of God, that at your ordination

"He changed you and has since used you as a special instrument of His care for the Church and the human family.”

Fr Tom was fond of the Little Sisters and would often say Mass for them. He had hoped to reside there in his final years but it sadly closed in 2018.

He moved instead to the Holy Rosary Residence in Greenock, which is also run by The Little Sisters. Before Covid he would travel back to Edinburgh a few times a year to catch up with friends that he missed.

He enjoyed decent health into his eighties and would say Mass in the care home’s chapel, often leading the singing! (Following his death, one of the sisters remarked ‘Who will lead us in singing now?’).

He continued to enjoy walking and was a regular sight along the town’s esplanade.

'A truly devoted priest'

Mgr Francis Kerr, a retired priest of the Archdiocese and a fellow resident at the Holy Rosary Residence in Greenock, said: “Fr Tom was a very humble and reserved person and a truly devoted priest.

He was always willing to supply for me either at St Joseph's home in Edinburgh or here in Greenock whenever I wished to go on holidays or have an overnight.

“He was very popular with the Sisters, the residents and staff. We will all miss his presence, his cheerful remarks, his good humour and general friendliness towards all as well as his willingness to offer any extra Masses for special groups who would come to the Home for Mass.”

Sir Tom Farmer and his late wife Anne were good friends of Fr Tom. He said: “Throughout the many years of friendship that my wife Anne and I enjoyed with Father Tom McNulty, I was always grateful for his abundant kindness and compassion for people, his wise and clear sharing of the word of Scripture and his wonderful companionship as a man who always had a great story to tell.

Fr Tom, fourth from left, with fellow retired clergy and Archbishop Cushley in 2017.

"We who have encountered him can forever be grateful that we met a true man of God.”

Fr Tom's family said: “Fr Tom was a devoted brother to his sisters, all of whom sadly predeceased him. He would attend family Christmases with his niece, Joanna, and her family while his nephews, Nigel and Chris, spent some of their summer holidays with him in Duns for a number of years. His nephews and nieces further afield also kept in touch with him. He will be sadly missed.”

Fr Tom died peacefully at Inverclyde Hospital on Saturday 6 January after a short illness. He was 90.

The Requiem Mass took place at St Kentigern’s on Monday 15 January with Archbishop Cushley as the principal celebrant.

He said in his homily: "The young men who were sent to St-Sulpice in Paris after the War formed an impressive group of friends and comrades.  They worked faithfully in this diocese for many years, although their presence is now fading away with the passing of time.

"Fr Tom was a gentle pastor of souls, but he was also a man of firm conviction.  He was of another school, the old school, but what a wonderful example he was of the best of it."

Fr Tom was laid to rest with his mother and father at the family plot at Mount Vernon Cemetery. May he rest in peace.

Images courtesy of the family of Fr Thomas McNulty.

Funeral arrangements for Fr Thomas McNulty

The funeral arrangements for Fr Tom McNulty have been confirmed.

The Vigil of Reception is on Sunday 14 January at 7pm at St Kentigern's, 26 Parkgrove Avenue, Edinburgh EH4 7QR.

The  Requiem Mass will take place at midday on Monday 15 January at midday. Burial thereafter will be at Mount Vernon Cemetery.

Fr Tom died peacefully on Saturday at Inverclyde Royal Hospital. He was 90.

Fr Tom (right) pictured after concelebrating Mass with Archbishop Cushley at the Missionaries of Charity in Hopetoun Crescent, Edinburgh,  in 2015.

He was ordained to the priesthood at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh in 1956 and faithfully served in seven parishes in the Archdiocese:

  • St Mary, Kirkcaldy, 1956-1963
  • St Bernadette, Larbert, 1963-1969
  • St Columba, Edinburgh, 1969-1972
  • Our Lady & St Margaret, Duns, 1972-1984
  • St Kentigern, Edinburgh, 1984-1998
  • Sacred Heart, Penicuik, 1998-2001
  • Our Lady of the Waves, Dunbar, 2002-2006
Fr Tom (second from right) at Mass to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of St Kentigern's in Barnton in 2016. He was parish priest there from 1984-1998.

Fr Tom attended St John's in Portobello (1938-1940), Holy Cross in Edinburgh (1940-45) before heading to Blair's College, the junior seminary.

He studied for the priesthood at St Sulpice in Paris (1951-56) and was ordained alongside his friend  James Friel, who died in 2019.

Tributes poured in for the much-loved priest following the announcement of his passing on social media.

Senga Welsh wrote: "Father McNulty was a truly wonderful person, a great Parish Priest, whom my family loved when he was in St. Bernadette's in Larbert."

Laura Swan wrote: "So sad to read this. A much loved priest during his time at St Kentigern's. Rest in peace."

Fr Thomas latterly resided at the Holy Rosary Residence in Greenock.

He died peacefully at Inverclyde Hospital on Saturday night, having been admitted there a couple of days earlier.

Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy, pray for him.

Canon Hannan: the priest who helped found Hibs

Mike Hennessy is conducting research with friends about Canon Edward Joseph Hannan, who was instrumental to the founding of Hibernian Football Club. Here he tells the fascinating story about the life of the Catholic priest. A Mass was held at St Patrick's in the Cowgate, Edinburgh, in June 2021 to mark the 130th anniversary of Canon Hannan's death and there are thoughts that it will become an annual event.

Early Days

Edward Joseph Hannan was the second of eleven children born to John and Johanna Hannan (nee Sheehy) on a farm in Ballygrennan townland, Ballingarry, Limerick, not far from St Patrick’s well. The area is known locally as The Glen. His gravestone gives his date of birth as 21 June 1836. The paucity of records from the period have made it difficult to track his early years, though a group of five veteran Hibernian supporters have undertaken the task.

Seminary

What is known is that he attended St Munchin's junior seminary in Limerick when it reopened in 1853 after being closed for nearly three decades and spent a maximum of two years there before moving to All Hallows in Drumcondra, Dublin, to complete his studies for the priesthood.

All Hallows was the training ground for missionary priests who followed the Irish diaspora to all corners of the earth where Irish communities had exploded in the aftermath of The Famine. The brother of Edward Hallinan, from Fort William near Ballingarry, who would marry one of Hannan’s sisters, had left All Hallows after his ordination bound for the west coast of Scotland and the parish of Saltcoats in 1853.

Scotland

Though the precise sequence of events is not clear, it is likely that the young aspiring priest was introduced or as at minimum recommended by Fr William Hallinan to Bishop Gillis of the Eastern District of Scotland who had begun to fund the education of priests at All Hallows given the lack of native Scottish priests and their inability to converse in Gaelic. All Hallows’ records show Hannan in 1855 as already being destined for Scotland, and Gillis is known to have been in Dublin in the September of that year.

Upon his ordination in 1860, he was allowed to remain briefly at All Hallows as a director but was called to Edinburgh by Bishop Gillis in August 1861 due to the illness of several of his local priests.

Edinburgh

After a short stint at what is now St Mary’s Cathedral, he transferred to St Patrick’s church in the Cowgate, known locally as “Little Ireland”, the insanitary and disease-ridden slum area which housed the Edinburgh Irish Community. Most unusually, he was to stay there for thirty years, becoming the priest in charge in 1869.

The poverty and overcrowding he encountered amongst his parishioners in the aging city tenements must have shocked him despite his no doubt having witnessed a similar situation in Dublin which at the time was on its way to becoming the slum capital of Europe. He would also have been briefed by fellow All Hallows student, Edinburgh born Wm Corbett, who would subsequently join him at St Pat’s. When the Irish immigrants fled their homeland, those with any money paid their passages to the likes of the USA and Australia, whilst those with little could afford only the short journey to England or Scotland.

Catholic Young Men’s Society

Fortunately, the censuses of 1871 and 1881 capture Hannan’s whereabouts and record that he remained living in the community for the full thirty years.

The priests’ house adjacent to the church in which the priests still live today was built on his instruction; and it was there that he was joined for two short periods by his younger brother Joseph, who was ordained in 1879.

His interest in the poor and their education ( he joined the Edinburgh City Parochial Board in 1877 and the Edinburgh School Board in 1885) and in building bridges with the majority Protestant community in Edinburgh meant he played an important part in the civic life of the city. Within four years of his arrival, in order to provide his young male parishioners with a focus other than drinking, thieving and other iniquitous pursuits, he opened a branch of the Catholic Young Men’s Society (CYMS), the organisation founded in 1849 by Dean Richard O’Brien, another priest with strong Limerick links, who attended the opening ceremony.

O’Brien was not an uncle in the biological sense, as was once believed, given that Sheehy was Hannan’s mother’s name, but he may well have been a close friend of the family; a virtual uncle.

Hibernian

The Scottish Football Association was founded in 1873, a sign of growing interest in the game. One of Fr Hannan’s parishioners, twenty-one-year-old Roscommon born Michael Whelahan, suggested that a team be formed to promote the physical well being of St Pat’s parishioners; players had to be practising Catholics, tee total and members of the CYMS.

On August 6th, 1875, the centenary of the birth of Daniel O’Connell, Hibernian FC was founded in St Mary’s Street Halls ( aka The Catholic Institute ), with “Erin Go Bragh” as its motto,  Fr Hannan as its president and Michael Whelahan its first captain. One of Hibs’ all-time greatest players, Pat Stanton, current honorary president of the Hibernian Historical Trust, is a direct descendent of Whelahan.

Growth

Despite the esteem with which Fr Hannan was held among the burghers of Edinburgh, as typified by the Lord Provost being prepared, in 1869, to lay the foundation stone of the Catholic Institute, the team struggled to gain acceptance from the predominantly Protestant establishment, but it did succeed in joining the Edinburgh Football Association in 1876 and the Scottish Football Association shortly afterwards, finding a permanent home at Hibernian Park, at the top end of Easter Road in 1880, and indeed in winning the Scottish cup in 1887.

Amazingly, the team followed its cup victory by beating the high-flying Preston North End 2-1 a few months later in what was billed at the time as the Championship of the World. To put it in context, Preston went on to wallop Glasgow Rangers the following week 8-1 at Ibrox. Mind you, most of the world had not yet been introduced to association football! But you can only play what is put in front of you.

Fundraising

The team became the major source of the CYMS’s charitable donations, and if you read any of the books written about Hibs, it feels as if every week they were asked to play a friendly game in the name of some charitable cause; and they agreed to. If a game attracted four-thousand fans, which was not uncommon, paying sixpence each on the gate, typical takings were of the order of £100 (roughly £12,500 in today’s money). Fr Hannan continued in his role as honorary life president until he his death in 1891.

He was clearly thought well of by the Catholic Church. One newspaper cutting from 1877 tells of him leaving Edinburgh for Rome on the occasion of the Papal Jubilee with over £2000 (£250k) in donations from the congregations of several of the Scottish Dioceses. Shortly after his own jubilee, in 1885, he was elevated to the position of Canon within the newly formed diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

One of the coincidences from the time is that James Connolly must have been one of his parishioners for the first fourteen years of his life; and possibly a further two once he had returned from his army service. Fr Hannan’s fellow curate Corbett baptised him in 1868. The legend has it that a 7 year old Connolly was present when Hibernian was founded and that he carried the kit for the team, though the practicalities would have made both events questionable.

Crises

As Fr Hannan approached his 52nd birthday, he could not have foreseen the series of crises which would befall him and his children, the CYMS and Hibernian.

In the summer of 1888, Glasgow Celtic, newly formed with the help of charitable donations from Hibs to its founder Brother Walfrid, was hijacked by second generation Irish businessman John Glass who could see the potential to make money from football; Celtic offered financial inducements to more than half the Hibs team, at a time when paying footballers was outlawed, and rocked the very foundations of the club.

At a talk at Parkhead given by Jim Craig on the 50th Anniversary of the Lisbon Lions great success, he admitted in my presence that a shameful part of Celtic’s history, that is not publicised for obvious reasons, was the way they poached more than half of the Hibs team and a couple more from Renton in 1888; and sent both those clubs to the brink.

Further turmoil

If that was not enough, Fr Hannan was caught in the crossfire between Rome, the Irish Bishops, the Home Rule movement, and the Land League. In August 1888, his Archbishop, William Smith, instructed him to remove the president of the local CYMS branch for his refusal to condemn the Plan of Campaign, one of the tactics used in Ireland to support evicted tenants, but which had been condemned by the Pope, under pressure from the British government. The CYMS was in chaos.

The knock-on effect was that the Hibs’ highly competent secretary had to step in as CYMS president, and within six months had absconded to the USA with £260 of the CYMS funds. Fr Hannan was left holding the empty piggy bank, which he felt that it was his personal responsibility to replenish.

Bad was to become worse. The new secretary of Hibernian lacked his predecessor’s organisational competence. As the quality of the playing staff declined, Hibs found themselves homeless since the lease on Hibernian Park, home for the previous ten years, had not been renewed. The means of raising money for the CYMS and its charities had been choked off.

Final years

And finally, Canon Hannan would have been well aware of the war being waged between two factions of the Catholic Church over the soul and the future direction of All Hallows.

In his time there, it had been a purely voluntary organisation reporting to no one in the Catholic Hierarchy, but in the 1870s, when support for the Fenians was strongest, it acquired a reputation for poor administration and indiscipline, much to the annoyance of Dublin’s Cardinal Cullen. By 1891 the issues had reached the Pope. A month after Hannan’s death, a new chapter would begin with the college to be run by the order of the Vincentians. Hannan must have been greatly saddened by the civil war for control of his Alma Mater.

Death

So by the spring of 1891, he did not have his troubles to seek. He succumbed to a flu bug in May that year, but instead of convalescing sufficiently, returned to duty too quickly. His weakened defences were then breached by pneumonia. On medical advice he went to stay with friends in the fresher air of Dunfermline, some 18 miles north of Edinburgh, but he lasted only a short time and died on 24 June with his younger brother, by then a priest at Denny, in attendance.

His body was returned to Edinburgh by train over the engineering marvel that is the Forth Bridge, opened only the year before, and built, ironically, by many of his parishioners.

His funeral took place two days later, attended not only by a who’s who of the Catholic Church in Scotland, but also by many in public life who were not of his faith, among them MPs, City Councillors, members of the School Board and the City Parochial Board.

The procession is reported as having comprised some two-thousand mourners, with thousands more lining the one-and-a-half-mile route from church to cemetery. He is buried alongside his brother in the Grange cemetery in Edinburgh. A bust of him can be found at Hibernian’s home ground of Easter Road, whilst memorials to him are kept in the entrance to St Patrick’s church.

Not bad for a country lad from Ballygrennan.

Further Research

The Hibernian supporters group researching his early life were astonished to find so little about him during their visit to Ballingarry in August 2019 and decided to make it their business to explore further hitherto untold aspects  of his life.

Sadly, most of the evidence uncovered to date in Ireland is circumstantial, with documentary evidence in short supply. Nonetheless, by referring to the Tithe Applotments of 1830, The Griffiths Valuation of 1852, various marriage certificates for his siblings, and books such as Samuel Lewis’s “A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland”, 1837, they have pieced together enough for a picture to emerge.

Early days

The farm where he was born is within a couple of miles of Knockfierna, where some of the worst incidences of deprivation, starvation and death took place during the Famine. It is within a mile or so of the birthplace of a more current man of the cloth, Mark Patrick Hederman, former Abbot of Glenstall Abbey.

Hannan would have been ten in 1846, his elder brother twelve. The wretched tenant farmers evicted from the Cox estate at Ballynoe, for example, would have had to pass the Hannan farm on their way to the common land on Knockfierna.

Running a dairy farm, and a fairly large one at that, the Hannans would have been spared the catastrophic impact of the loss of the potato crop but could hardly have turned a blind eye to their neighbours’ plight. It may explain why young Edward decided to devote his life to the care of others.

Missing pieces

There are lots of things that remain unknown. Where did he go to school for the twelve missing years 1841-53? Did his parents pay for his education, locally and in Limerick and later Dublin? At which of the three churches in the parish did he worship? What influence did his parish priest Fr Michael Fitzgerald (later Archdeacon at Rathkeale) have upon his future direction? When did he leave home for the first time ? Did he return from Scotland for his sisters’ weddings, his parents’ funerals ?

So, there are still many unanswered questions and the fans’ group is committed to filling in as many of the gaps as they can. They have established links with several Limerick based organisations which have provided some useful pointers, and whereas the travel restrictions and lockdowns during the pandemic were inconvenient, they merely slowed research down. Records held by the Scottish Catholic Archives, the Edinburgh libraries and the British Newspaper Archive meant research could continue. .

In 2022, a commemorative plaque was donated to Ballingarry AFC by the St Pat’s branch of the Hibernian Supporters Association at a ceremony attended by recently deceased Hibs director Stephen Dunn and a number of travelling fans. Ballingarry AFC has provided a permanent location for the plaque which will act as a lasting memorial to one of the town’s most famous, if understated, sons.

The resulting manuscript may be turned into a book to be launched in 2025, the 150th anniversary of the club’s founding.  If you have any information on Canon Hannan please contact Mike Hennessy on 07850 723261 or mikehennessy1875@outlook.com. This article is based on one which first appeared in 2021 in the Limerick Leader.

A Scots priest in Rome

Fr Nick Welsh (pictured front right) describes his life as a priest in Rome, where he is Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Scots College.

One of the strangest things about being a priest in the seminary is that we don’t work in a parish.

For diocesan priests this is quite unusual since the normal work of a diocesan priest is parish work: to be in the midst of the people entrusted to him, caring for their spiritual needs and preaching the Word of God.

It also involves celebrating the sacraments, visiting the sick, comforting the dying and the bereaved, joyfully celebrating baptisms and marriages and being involved in our school communities.

In the seminary some of that takes place, but it is still very different.

Seminary

The seminary certainly is a place for living in the midst of the people entrusted to us – even more so than in the parish because we live in the same building.

It is a place for preaching the Word of God, but the only sacrament I would celebrate as vice rector would be the Eucharist.

There’s no baptisms to be done and I can’t hear the confessions of the seminarians (the spiritual director is the only priest in the house who can).

There are certainly no marriages to be celebrated, and given the youth of our seminarians, funerals are unlikely.

So how does a diocesan priest survive in an environment where so much of his ‘bread and butter’ is not available to him?

Sunday

At a recent meeting of Pope Francis with priests studying in Rome, he encouraged them to have some kind of pastoral activity on a Sunday; to get out of their colleges and have something much more like a normal Sunday as a priest.

Whilst it is slightly different for us as seminary formators as our pastoral responsibility is the seminary community, it is also good for us to get out of the college and regularly experience something of a more typical Sunday for a priest.

I say ‘typical’ rather than ‘normal’ because for us, as a seminary community, the in-house celebration of the Eucharist is normal; it is the norm for us as men either in formation or offering formation.

It’s not odd that seminarians celebrate Mass in the College, it’s just different, and it is right that they do have Mass in the College, because the Mass, especially on a Sunday, is a time of formation, and the homily, especially, ought to be addressed to seminarians and their discernment and formation journey.

To experience that more typical Sunday Eucharist, each Sunday, one of the priests from the College will celebrate Mass in the local parish church, Santa Rosa da Viterbo.

Local parish

The local parish is a ten-minute walk from the College, along the via Santa Giovanna Elisabetta.

Don Federico, the parish priest, along with the two curates don Pablo and don Paschal, have always been welcoming of the College.

They have been keen to have the priests involved in the life of the parish. And so each Sunday one of us will celebrate the 9am Mass.

It’s the first Mass of the day and, whilst it tends to have an older congregation, there is a lively music group composed of around 20 sisters from a nearby convent who help raise our hearts and minds to God through their music and singing.

The real challenge of celebrating the Mass in the parish is preaching.

Having to preach in a foreign language means that a bit more planning and time has to go into the homily, as well as a bit more of an appreciation of the cultural context and the political goings on in Italy.

The people, however, seem to appreciate the homilies of the Scots priests, one advantage being that they tend to be much shorter than the others (Italian priests are known to preach for 20 to 25 minutes, even during the week!).

Socialising

After Mass, we join a group of parishioners at a local bar (and bar has a different meaning in Italy – we’re not heading out for a pint at 10am!) for coffee and a cornetto.

And it is here that I would say we feel very much part of the community of Santa Rosa.

Each week there is a fight to pay, each person keen to take care of the bill.

Each week people make enquiries into life in Scotland, asking after previous College staff members who used to celebrate Mass for them;

And each week there are jokes and banter  - often lost on us foreigners!

All of it reminds us of our typical Sunday in a parish in Scotland, which one day we will return to.

And all of it reminds us of the universality of the Church; that I can show up in a parish in a foreign country and, even though the language is different, the Mass is the same, the welcome is the same, all because of one thing: the Faith is the same!

Fr Nick Welsh is Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Scots College, Rome and a Priest for the Archdiocese of St. Andrews & Edinburgh. Article published originally here.

Archbishop's homily - ordination of Fr Josh Moir

Here is the Homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley from the Priestly Ordination of Fr Josh Moir at Our Lady & St Andrew’s, Galashiels, 28 June.

Homily

My dear friends, a very warm welcome to our Archdiocese and to Galashiels, as we gather for the Ordination to the priesthood of your relative and friend, Josh.

For the second year in a row, I am very pleased to be able to celebrate a priestly ordination here, in Our Lady & St Andrew’s.  And I am again in debt to Fr Andrew Kingham, and to all in the parish who have prepared both the sacred and the social parts of our celebration this evening.

We also gather again around the Feast of the great Apostles of the Roman Church, Saints Peter and Paul.  In their different ways, Peter and Paul helped to found a church in Rome that held on through extremely difficult times with exemplary faith and courage.  And we here look with pride to what they achieved, because we too are sons and daughters of the Church of Rome.

Those first Roman Christians buried their dead in the now famous catacombs, and they occasionally had to hide there from the authorities when the state became intolerant of Christianity, and it became dangerous simply to hold the tenets of our faith.

To this day, the catacombs show us traces of the faith and love of our ancient brothers and sisters, in monuments, inscriptions and even frescoes that have survived.  And, among the images that have come down to us from those dark times is one of the Good Shepherd, seen as a beardless Roman youth, carrying a lamb on his shoulders.

For us, as a version of the Good Shepherd, it’s a little unusual, but it’s a beautiful, serene, confidence-inspiring image.

It’s also interesting to compare it, created by persecuted Christians, with the Psalm that inspires it.  In Psalm 22/23, we see, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want… The Lord gives me repose; he leads me to green pastures, at restful waters, he gives me repose…[and] even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”.

These were surely words that those Christians clung to for dear life, as they were being tried and executed for simply believing what you and I believe quietly these days.

The Psalm concludes, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell forever and ever”. This Psalm, remembered in such a context, and the peaceful image of the Good Shepherd with the lamb safely over his shoulders, stands in such contrast to what was happening to them, that we are struck by their confidence in God’s mercy in the teeth of the world’s intolerance, aggression and cruelty.

Now, this image of the Good Shepherd, young, humble, brave, constant, is one that we continue look to, as another generation aspires to the priesthood.  Our seminarians are, for the most part, younger men, taken from among their kin and their peers, and set aside for sacred duties.

Our sacred ministers aren’t sacred in themselves; but they must wish, and strive, to be worthy of what they approach, and what will be their daily bread for the rest of their lives.  And we, in our turn, must support them and encourage them to be faithful to the things of God.

We are all of us able to love and respect what is sacred.  And I believe that what the young people today wish from the Church and from our example is a renewed and profound sense of the sacred. They live in the world; they are familiar with its glamour; and yet they are also drawn to what is holy.

They cannot escape living in this messy, complicated reality, but they are drawn to God’s presence; and so the solution is to propose a life that is close to people, while stepping aside from the world from time to time, to go to our private room, to be still before the Lord, to love being in His presence, and, from a store of faith and experience, draw others from the world and towards Christ.

This is something all Christians should do, but our sacred ministers do it with a consecration that sets them apart for it, not for their own sake, but on behalf of us all.

Priests are therefore set aside to intercede for us before God, especially in the Eucharist, by means of their configuration to Christ on the Cross, the great mediator between God and humanity, our High Priest, our Good Shepherd.

Josh, we hope and pray that you too will learn to imitate the Good Shepherd as you mature in the priesthood.  Be a good and simple pastor of souls, close to your people, willing to go the extra mile, gently bringing them back, and kindly looking out for them, in season and out of season.

You will be set apart from now on, but in a way that also means being approachable, open, and charitable.

Learn to be good with the Lord’s goodness, and patient with His patience.  Ask for the Lord’s grace, for yourself and for others.  And let Lord’s grace working in you be met by your own willingness, to strive always to be worthy of what is being entrusted to you today.

Be a good shepherd to all after the Lord’s own heart.  And may the Lord’s goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life.   Amen.

GALLERY: Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood of Samuel Burke OP

Family and friends today (Saturday 25 July) celebrated the ordination of Fr Samuel Burke OP to the Sacred Priesthood at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Father Samuel has been in the city for the past year as a deacon at the Dominican-run St Albert the Great in George Square and serves as Chaplain for the University of Edinburgh.

In his homily Archbishop Cushley praised the work of the Dominicans in the diocese and said: "As a Dominican Friar, Sam, you have already given your life and your obedience to an Order that is distinguished for its pursuit of truth, its attachment to simplicity of life, and the preaching of the Word.

"In the sacred priesthood, what the Church now asks of you is to conform yourself more perfectly to Christ, and Him crucified. We are priests, never for our ourselves, but for Christ and His People.

"May this new commission from the Church that priestly ordination represents, be for you a task that is joyful and a burden that is light.  Let it conform you to Christ our great High Priest, the One who reveals to us the merciful face of God, and whose love and mercy we wish to share with humanity."

He added: "Finally, Sam, always live and act in a way that is worthy of the great gift that is bestowed on you today.  And wherever your priesthood takes you, may God bless you abundantly."

Because of Covid-19 restriction only 50 people could attend the ordination, but it was streamed online by the Cathedral to family and friends unable to attend.

After the Mass, Fr Samuel give his first blessing to the Archbishop and gathered clergy as well as family and friends, before heading to St Albert's for a reception.

He thanked his Dominican brothers for their support and added: "I want to give thanks to the Lord for His mercy and the gift of my vocation. I especially thank my family for their love, support and sacrifice; my friends for coming and their unique contributions and support."

Reverend Samuel Burke OP will say his first Mass tomorrow (Sunday 26 July) in St Albert’s, George Square, Edinburgh, at 5.15pm. This Mass will be streamed live on Facebook. Read the Archbishop's homily here.

Gallery

(Image: Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh)

Image: Benedicta Lin
Image: Benedicta Lin
Image: Benedicta Lin

All pictures by Paul McSherry unless otherwise stated.

Seminarians star in new BBC documentary

The life of a Scottish seminarian in Rome is revealed in a new three-part series on BBC Alba.

Priest School follows Ronald Campbell from Benbecula, who is in his final year studying for the priesthood at the Beda College in Rome.

It also features seminarians from the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh as they study, pray and share life together in the Eternal City.

The highlight of the first episode is students and staff meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican. He tells them: "Don't forget to pray for me".

https://www.facebook.com/EdinburghRCdiocese/videos/2632234383676213/

The next epsiodes are on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th December at 8:30pm. The first episode is available now on BBC iPlayer.

If you feel God might be calling you to the priesthood, have a chat with our Vocations Director Father Andrew Garden on 0131 663 4286 or vocations@staned.org.uk. For the religious life, contact Sister Mirjam Hugens on 0131 623 8902 or religiousvocations@staned.org.uk

Q&A: My journey to the priesthood

Deacon David Edwardson, 65, a former Anglican clergyman, will be ordained to the holy priesthood this weekend. He tells us what brought him home to the Catholic church.

What are you most looking forward to in your ministry? 
Doing what I believe I am called to be. To preach, to teach and to celebrate the sacraments. I can think of no greater privilege than that. To walk with and alongside others on their Christian pilgrimage, to learn from them, to lean on them and to be leant on from time to time too. Priesthood is a stepping deeper into what it is to be human; walking the road with others.

What did you do before your journey to the priesthood?
I have taught biology in secondary school, been an Anglican priest for nearly 30 years and a School chaplain for 10 of those. I have lived and worked in France, latterly in the Archdiocese of Bourges.

Your favourite memory from your time as an Episcopalian clergyman?
My time as chaplain working with large numbers of young people, with their freshness, genuine interest and enthusiasm for life, the church and the world.

What drew you to the Catholic church?
It was most certainly God who drew me to the Catholic Church, who brought me ‘home’. Since my first encounter with Him it became clearer and clearer just what He wanted of me. The journey has been difficult and at times painful but always I have been conscious of His Spirit leading me.

At what point did you decide you wanted to become a Catholic priest?
I had known since an encounter with God earlier in my life that He wanted me as a priest. I could not articulate why for a long time and still it is difficult to do so but I just knew. As He led me into the Catholic Church it was as a priest.

Has anyone in particular inspired you in your journey to priesthood?
I have been privileged to meet many holy people lay and ordained over the years. Each in their own way, without perhaps realising it has shaped and formed me. To meet real faith and the love of God and His Church is humbling and inspiring. These people have shown me that serving as a priest is a very powerful witness to others and a way in which I can serve too.

What advice would you give to other men considering the priesthood?
Go for it. If Christ is calling you or you think you might be called by Him then respond to that call. It is not an easy path but a wonderful journey, a journey which is profound and well worth making. It is also a great joy and full of surprises! The will of God will not lead you where His Spirit won’t sustain you!

Who’s your favourite saint?
St Francis of Assisi. His utter abandonment and dedication, his hope and his commitment. His otherworldliness and love for all around his as God’s creation. His Christ-like vision.

David Edwardson will be ordained to the holy priesthood at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh at noon on Sunday 8 September. Read more about his journey to the priesthood in this article from the Scottish Catholic Observer, published in September.

Obituary: The Very Rev Stephen Canon Judge

Tributes have been paid following the death of a dedicated Edinburgh priest.

Stephen Canon Judge died peacefully on Friday morning at St Anne’s Care Home in Musselburgh after a period of illness. He was 84.

He served at various parishes across the Archdiocese for over 50 years before retiring in 2010.

St Ninian’s was his first appointment, from 1958 to 1962, before becoming parish priest at St Columba’s for seven years. In 1969 he began at Holy Cross and then St Gregory’s (1972-1985), St Peter’s (1985-1989), St Mary of the Angels in Camelon (1989-1996) before taking over at both St Andrew’s and St Margaret’s from 1996 to 2001.

He retired as parish priest at St Mark’s in 2010, having enjoyed nine years there.

Canon Judge attended St Cuthbert’s Primary School and junior seminary at Blairs College, near Aberdeen. He was accepted as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh and studied for the priesthood at the Royal Scots College in Valladolid, Spain, where he was ordained in 1958.

He received a Bachelor of Divinity from the University of London in 1997 and a Theology qualification from Edinburgh University in 1991. In 1995 he enjoyed a stay in Jerusalem on a three-month sabbatical. Canon Judge was an ordained priest for a total of 61 years.

Archbishop Leo Cushley said: “Canon Stephen was a good and shrewd pastor of souls. He touched many people’s lives positively in his many years of priesthood. I am very grateful for his goodness, his humour and his constant example of service. May he rest in peace.”

Funeral arrangements will be issued shortly.

The Very Rev Stephen Canon Judge BD MTh 1935-2019.