My brother, a Columban Missionary priest - Damien McInerney
"Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Mt 12:48-50)
My youngest brother, Patrick, has been a Columban priest for 27 years and, because of that, our experience and understanding of Church is more meaningful.
As a Columban priest, called to mission, Patrick brings the universal Church in all its variety into our everyday family life. We are connected to a Christian mission that reaches out to the most marginalised people on the planet.
For much of his 27 years with the Columbans, Patrick has lived and worked in Lahore, Pakistan. Because of his life there, we have been brought close to the interface of Christianity and Islam.
We have an understanding that difference is not to be feared, but rather to be celebrated and recognised as a gift that enriches us and broadens our understanding of the world in which we live.
Even though Patrick and the rest of the family have been separated by distance during his time in Pakistan, the bonds of love between a priest and his family are close and intimate. For my mother and father, it was a great source of pride and joy that one of their sons was called to the priesthood. They recognised that his call to priesthood was a gift from God, not only to Patrick, but also to them and to all of us as a family.
This richness has been most apparent at many of the important milestones in our family life. Many times Patrick has administered the sacraments to our children, baptising, confirming, giving them the Eucharist for the first time. The funerals of our mother and father had a unique richness and depth for us all as Patrick celebrated, with his brother priests, their requiem Masses.
The call to priesthood is not a call to disengage from the world and live in isolation but rather a call to engage in a different way. In the same way that marriage is a vocation of relationship, so is the priestly life.
Marriage is a call to relationship of man and woman. It is an exclusive relationship. Priesthood is a call to relationship between the priest and the community to whom he is called to serve. It is an inclusive relationship, an intimate relationship between priest and his community, his parish or his family.
Our family life is enriched in many ways because one of us has answered the call to priesthood. Our children have a special relationship with Patrick, a unique uncle who bridges a generation gap.
I am confident we give back to him a family in which he belongs, a place that has always been home, a “little Church” that sustains him and is in turn, enriched by his priestly ministry to us and to our world.