I wouldn't have it any other way

Last month, Fr Bernard McDermott, originally from Cheshire, England, celebrated being a priest of St Columbans Mission Society for a staggering 47 years. He spent a number of those years on mission promotion here in Australia. Here he looks back at his decades of service and concludes: ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way!’

Fr Bernard McDermott. Photo: St Columbans Missionary Society

Fr Bernard McDermott. Photo: St Columbans Missionary Society

I can hardly believe that so many years have passed since my decision in 1969 to abandon my career as a personal tax advisor with BP, the oil company, to seek a new direction in life and to become a missionary priest. Forty-seven years on and I am still here and I have to thank Almighty God for that. 

There have been times when I have felt disillusioned with the way the Church has acted and spoken on various issues affecting the lives and faith of its subjects and the message it has portrayed to the wider world. I have to say too, that on some occasions, I have felt angry and ashamed at the attitude of the Church on some issues such as sexuality, human rights and the role of women in the Church.

It isn’t all negative though, of course, and the election of Pope Francis was one of the many positive and important highlights in my missionary life. He has become a much-needed breath of fresh air in both his words and example. The opposition he has received from inside the Church has been a disappointment to me, but I admire his vision and courage to carry on despite the criticism.

Not having a family of my own has to be the biggest sacrifice in becoming a priest. I love children and relate easily to them, or so I have been told! Although not having a wife and children of my own has been painful, the freedom this has brought me has meant I could accept appointments to countries like the Philippines, Taiwan and Australia. My experience on mission in these countries has been very enriching and given me very many happy and fulfilling moments.

Fortunately, I am very content with my life as a missionary priest, which is just as well, since, at 77 years of age, it isn’t the time to start considering any other form of life commitment! I do not regret giving up the ‘rat race’ of a career in secular life. I am grateful for the respect and freedom that membership of the Missionary Society of St Columban has afforded me since I was accepted as a candidate for ordination in 1969.

I am especially grateful to Fr Ned, who, over the past number of years has been a supportive and understanding friend and landlord. Most of all I am grateful to the many people who have loved and influenced me over the years both here in Britain, in my ministry in Birmingham, as well as in the places overseas where I have served as a priest. 

I am not the judge of what I have given over the past 47 years but I am certain that I have received ten times more than I have given.

Columban Bernard McDermott works on Mission Awareness in Solihull, UK.

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