Thursday, April 11, 2019


This is how you welcome immigrants - not with a wall, not with cages, not with vast unsanitary under-resourced camps - but with a hug.

More of that later.

Colm Holmes

We Are Church Ireland is a group of Roman Catholics who are attempting to reform the antiquated, mired-in-the-middle-ages, Roman Catholic Church. These are not Molotov-cocktail revolutionaries. The are ordinary people, many of them quite conservative in other areas of their lives but all on a mission of salvation - to save the Roman Catholic Church from going down the tubes or from reducing itself to a fascist totalitarian clique.

Their five "outrageous" demands are:
  1. Equality of all the baptised where decision making is actively shared by all, with appropriate structures for this.
  2. Full participation of women in all aspects of church life, including priesthood.
  3. Recognition of the primacy of an informed conscience.
  4. Promotion of a positive attitude towards sexuality and the removal of the obligation of clerical celibacy.
  5. An inclusive church, open and welcoming to all, which does not marginalise people because of their sexual orientation, marital status or for any other reason.

Welcoming all to the meeting, Colm reminded us of the five aims - sort of setting a context.

John Farrelly

John took the opening prayer, which is customary at the beginning of each meeting. This was one with a difference, laced with a bit of Transcendental Meditation or Mindfulness or something.

Ursula Halligan

Ursula then took over the role of MC and introduced us to the night's speaker: Sheila Curran RSM with a talk entitled
IMMIGRATION: Welcoming the Stranger; a Challenge and Opportunity; a faith perspective.
And what was I doing there? I was inclined to wonder about that myself - coming along to listen to a Mercy Nun talk about immigration.

Well as it happened it was less of a talk and more of a challenge. And this was no run of the mill nun, if there is such a thing. Apart from her impressive academic qualifications, she has worked with the poor both at home and abroad, but what caught my eye was her having worked with liberation theologian, Gustavo Gutiérrez.

Now, liberation theology, which essentially meant putting the welfare of the poor ahead of dogma, was roundly condemned by the now Saint John Paul II, and it played an significant role in the path of discernement of the current Pope. On top of this, a stint in South America has tended to radicalise those religious who go there. So, to answer the question, I was curious.

Sheila Curran

Sheila did not disappoint. From the word go, she was on the offensive. And there is something about a northern accent that penetrates your defences.

She briefly genuflected in the direction of the MOPE meme, but quickly turned it on its head to illustrate that we should know better and had no excuse.

Yes, there were the coffin ships and, despite all, Irish America came of age as one of the most powerful lobbies in the States. But it still felt itself a cut above the Hispanics. We have no monopoly on virtue.

Sheila brought us further down to earth with a bang.

How had Ireland of the Welcomes treated refugees from Northern Ireland in 1972? Welcome, as long as they were going back soon and meanwhile showed the gratitude expected of them. And by the way, none of your Northern disruption down here, thank you.

And these were our own. What might real foreigners expect? Direct provision? Effectively a denial of human rights and, for the many, long term incarceration. And most of this hidden away, off the public radar.

And human trafficking? Sure we're dead against that.

But what about the honey-pot ad posted of a young woman offering sexual services, and with a phone number. When she answered the phone she explicitly claimed she was being trafficked, and this was competely ignored by the callers. What was the predominant accent of the callers? Ireland of the Welcomes.

So what should we be doing?

Taking our fair share of refugees for a start, welcoming them into communities and allowing them to work. They have much to contribute and have a right to a reasonable life.

Nieves Fernandez

Nieves has been an immigrant into a number of countries and she made the point that people are people no matter where you go. She was apprehensive on occasions starting in a new country but found that the people "were just like us".

I could go on but if you're interested you can look in on Sheila's talk/challenge on the night. It is in three parts of 15 minutes each:
Part 1  Part 2  Part 3.

And you can also gen up on Sheila's wider take on life at the Mercy International website.

Previous meetings:  Josepha Madigan   Gabriel Daly

1 comment:

  1. Excellent report Pól! You highlight the challenge set so well by Sheila Curran to all of us!
    Sheila referred to a "Responding to Racism Guide" which is available online at
    Many thanks!