16Nov Priests are under unique and damaging pressures today

I’d like to look at some of the difficulties and pressures that face us as priests in Ireland today. I don’t think I have anything profound or original to say – in fact, I know I don’t. I am not an academic. I have no great expertise in or knowledge of theology. I may be considered with some suspicion by elements in the Vatican, but anything I say won’t be news to anyone. I hope, however, that it might provide a context for reflection and prayer.

All of us know these are challenging times to be a priest. The tragic death two weeks ago of Fr Murdeach Tuffy has reminded us of that again in a most distressing way. The manner of his passing devastated people near and far. We will never know why he did it.
He had given over thirteen years of outstanding service as a priest. For the past ten years he was director of the Newman Institute in Ballina. Added to this was his parish work, his work in vocations promotion at local and national level, and his work with Accord. Availability was his second name. If he had a fault, Bishop Fleming said at his funeral Mass, it was his inability to say no to so many people who came to him with requests, and no to his bishop, when, regretfully, according to Bishop Fleming, he did the same.
And after Murdeach’s death, people were left with the question. Why? Why did someone as gifted and as young as Muredach only see darkness and decide that he could travel no further on life’s journey? Why did he not share with someone whatever troubles filled his mind?
We will never know, but it is a reminder of the pressures priests face today, and maybe also of the difficulty we priests have in sharing – our burdens, and questions, our anxieties and darkness.
It would seem to me that many priests are experiencing unique pressures today that are, if not the cause of premature death, certainly damaging to our health – physically, emotionally, psychologically – and that we need to be aware of, and attentive to, them.
I would like to look at six factors that are contributing to the pressures clergy experience today, and to which we need to be attentive.

1. Work. You might remember an article by a priest that appeared, I think, in Intercom about 20 years ago that talked about the leisurely life of many priests, particularly of country priests, and which caused a lot of indignation at the time. It spoke of how after morning Mass and breakfast, the priest would look for a funeral to go to or maybe head to the golf course. It ruffled a lot of feathers.
How times have changed!
I don’t have to tell you that the workload of many clergy has increased substantially in recent years. Many busy parishes that had two or three priests 10 years ago now have to make do with one or two priests less. And it is not the number of Sunday Masses that is the problem (though that can be too). It is the many other heavy duty responsibilities that come with parish ministry, particularly urban parish ministry – the constant funerals, weddings, visitation of the sick, round-the-clock availability to deal with all kinds of problems, the organisations and committees the priest is expected to attend or chair. And then there is the management of schools. Some urban parishes have four or five schools. Managing them places enormous burdens on clergy. I know that many would be thrilled if they could be relieved of the headache which that responsibility brings.
And we know the problem is going to get worse. There is a greying of the clergy. The majority are now aged over 60. Young men are few on the ground. Seminaries are almost empty. Many parishes will have even fewer clergy in the next few years.
The clustering of parishes is a stop-gap approach that is not a solution to the priest shortage. Some parishes will be priestless, a phenomenon that has already begun. And the demands on the few remaining priests will grow even greater. They will become little more than sacrament dispensers, going from one parish or church to another, with little or no time to get to know people or to be with them.
As clergy retire or die, there is scarcely anyone to replace them, with the result that there are fewer active men who are required to take on more and more responsibilities. It is a phenomenon we are familiar with in the Redemptorists, where the few we have who are under 50 are asked to do more and more.
What all of this means is that priests are increasingly stretched and stressed. People’s health and quality of work are affected. They don’t have the space they need, the time out, to breathe, to engage in serious reading and study, even to pray. Their intellectual life can grow shallow; they become stale – with implications for the quality of preaching and ministry, and indeed for a healthy, balanced life itself.
Few can take a sabbatical anymore, because there is no one to step in for him for the time he is away. Not so long ago, Irish Redemptorists were permitted to have a sabbatical every 10 years or so. No longer can they do that.
Might I mention also the impact of men leaving the ministry? The departure of friends and people I admire has had a huge impact on me. There is the sense of loss, of betrayal, of being let down, of abandonment. It leads to a questioning of one’s own vocation and ministry. It has a tremendous demoralising effect.

2. Loneliness. I think loneliness is an issue for many clergy, and one that may become even more pronounced as work and other pressures on clergy increase. When I was thinking of priesthood all those years ago, a fear of loneliness was one of the main reasons why I opted for a religious order, why I decided to hook up with the Redemptorists. I didn’t fancy coming home alone to an empty house every evening. Of course, I’ve since discovered that it’s quite possible to be very lonely even when living in the context of a large religious community. And I know lonely religious; in fact, I’ve been there myself.
Loneliness brings particular dangers that I don’t have to tell you about – a sense of isolation, the risk of addiction, a tendency towards melancholia. We all know clergy who have found solace in the bottle, or another addiction, or who have developed an obsessional interest in something trivial or that should be peripheral to their lives as a response largely to the pain/dread of loneliness. They turn to whatever might distract them from the emptiness within. And so you can have the Golfer, the Gambler, the Racing Man, the Obsessive.
I know one parish priest who in his old age became obsessed with litter. He preached about it every Sunday, and spent his days going up and down the village streets chasing after litter. Some people laughed at him; many felt sorry for him – and it was very sad.
The need for healthy friendships is obviously critical, and not just inside the priesthood, even though that is so important, and not just with men. It’s something Donald Cozzens stresses in his book, The Changing Face of Priesthood, that it is critical we priests cultivate intimate relationships and that we cultivate female friendships too; that we develop, if at all possible, a healthy, intimate relationship with a female soul mate. Such a relationship will offer a sense of perspective and give a balance to our life that is essential. Aside from the loneliness issue altogether, to be fully human, to be effective ministers, to be mature sexual beings and to be healthy celibates, we need to nurture authentic celibate relationships. I myself have been very fortunate in that regard, and I thank God for it.
Of course, this is difficult to do. Suspicions will be aroused if you’re seen too much with a member of the opposite sex, so it is important to keep the relationship in the public domain – so that family and friends know about it, so there is nothing secret about it.

3. Fallout from sex abuse scandals. I’m sure that, like me, you have been upset, appalled, depressed after the publication of the various reports and audits into clerical sexual abuse. The fallout from these has had a hugely demoralising effect on clergy. Each time a report has been published, my way of dealing with it has been to not listen to the radio or read a newspaper for about a week afterwards. I have to tune out. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to cope. I remember after the Ferns Report came out, one parish priest telling me that he decided there and then never to wear his collar again when going into town. He was so embarrassed and ashamed.
And while we appreciate the need for effective child protection policies, we all feel threatened ourselves also – because we know how open it leaves us to false or malicious allegations being levelled against us, and how difficult it is to defend ourselves against them. The Fr Kevin Reynolds case that brought this home to us in a very real and frightening way. So there is, naturally, a worry about policies and how they might impact on us individually. This is perhaps the one instance above all others where someone is guilty ‘til proven innocent, and even if you are acquitted, you remain tarnished forever.
And then there is the loss of trust that was for so long taken for granted. We all feel more circumspect in our dealings with young people, and we feel that many parents view us with greater circumspection too.
In that context, it is understandable that we should experience a number of maybe even conflicting emotions in response to the clerical sex abuse problem. Certainly, I have.
I have felt a great deal of self-pity. Here I am a poor, innocent priest getting a terrible bashing, getting fierce flack for the sins of the few, even though I myself have done nothing wrong and am a mere foot soldier doing my best. To wallow in self-pity is a useless exercise – but it is understandable.
I have felt anger at the media, not so much for highlighting the problem because it was essential that they did that, but because of the impression created that this is exclusively or primarily a Catholic Church problem. It is understandable that we would feel defensive, and hard done by, and believe that the media have not been fair to us, and that we would want to lash out at them – though that too is a useless exercise.
I have felt anger at the abusers, for getting us in this mess in the first place, for betraying their religious vocation in a most appalling way, for the damage they have done to their victims and their victims’ families, as well as to their own families, and to the family of church.
And I have felt anger at the bishops and congregational leaders, a real frustration at the poor leadership they have shown. My God, how could they have mishandled the thing so badly? Why were they not more pro-active in dealing with it? Why, in God’s name, couldn’t they get their act together? So, a feeling of disappointment, of frustration, of being let down.
And all of this compounds the already strong feelings of pressure and vulnerability so many of us feel. It’s hard enough doing our job without having to deal with the devastating impact of the clerical sexual abuse scandals on top of everything else. But I think we should note a positive in all of this too – and that is the continued support and understanding of so many ordinary Catholics, their appreciation of the good work their good priests do. So many have gone out of their way to offer their support and appreciation.

4. Life of prayer. Many priests are men under pressure, and one area of our lives that can suffer as a result is the spiritual. As priests, it goes without saying that the spiritual dimension must be at the core of our lives, and all the more so in times of stress like we are experiencing now. But it can be hard for us to integrate the spiritual dimension into our lives, certainly to do so in a way that is authentic and is suited to our particular needs.
In this regard, diocesan priests may have a particular problem because the model of spiritual life that the diocesan is given so often tends to be based on the monastic tradition, and may not be suited to the particular situation of the diocesan clergyman. Almost all clergy retreats, for instance, are given by religious. The spirituality they propose may not be suited to the needs of those who live and minister outside of religious community. Even the Divine Office is not meant to be said alone, or is more easily prayed in the context of a religious community. In monasteries and religious communities, too, there is some prayer structure to the day, whereas diocesan priests are left to their own devices. And some sort of regular, structured prayer life is more difficult if you are living alone, irrespective of whether you are busy or not. I think it’s also true that on-going spiritual direction, in many cases, just doesn’t seem to happen.

5. The impact of secularisation. I was ordained in 1988. It was the culmination of nine years of study that had begun in September 1979 – the month of the pope’s triumphal visit to Ireland. I was in Ballybrit for the youth Mass. I will never forget the 10 minutes of cheering that interrupted John Paul II’s address. The pope was Bono. You’d have to go to Slane for that today.
Twenty four years is an insignificant period of time when measured against the great expanse of history, but in terms of the recent history of the church in Ireland they seem an age. When I was ordained, things, at least on the surface, seemed rosy in the garden. It was a good time to be a priest. Weekly Mass attendance was extraordinarily high by Western European standards. Respect for the church and its leaders and clergy was high. The church’s power and moral authority were still strong, as the referenda results of the mid-80s showed. By no means was that power and influence at a level comparable to that of the early decades of the modern Irish state, but there was little reason to think that things would change substantially as we moved towards the new millennium.
But change they did. And at a rapid pace. We have undergone a quite phenomenal process of secularisation in recent years, compressing into less than two decades something that took over half a century to happen in other Western countries. So, the transformation from a religious to a secular society has been more traumatic for us.
And that secularisation had had huge implications for the church and for us priests. There are falling levels of attendance at religious services. All of us have noticed it, even if in rural areas it is not as pronounced as in urban areas. From a situation where Mass attendance at the time of the papal visit was in the 85-90 per cent range, it has now fallen to below 40 per cent. In some urban areas, it’s 10 per cent or lower. Conspicuous by their absence in urban and rural parishes alike are those aged under 30. These people are in all likelihood lost forever.
The experts tell us that as a consequence of secularisation, we can identify three categories of Catholic in Ireland:
•The committed – still a lot of people but mostly older, greyer, traditional. These are the ones who go to Sunday Mass weekly or often.
•The casual – these would consider themselves to be fairly good Catholics, but are a la carte (particularly in the areas of sexual morality and fulfilling the Sunday obligation). Many of my friends and family fall into this category.
•The disengaged – those who no longer go, who don’t care, or who are downright antagonistic.

For many people, religion is now a cultural thing, confined to first communions, confirmations, weddings, and funerals. In another generation, the sons and daughters of those who no longer practice will form the majority. Religious language and culture will be alien to them.
At the time of the pope’s visit, most Irish people looked (or at least said they looked) to the Church for guidance on moral issues, and Irish law and the Irish constitution broadly reflected Catholic moral teaching. Today the gap between Rome and the faithful is growing, the majority of people do not look to the Church for guidance on how to live their lives, and Irish law has been ridded of its more overtly Catholic elements. All the evidence would suggest that these trends of declining Church allegiance and attendance will continue.
This growing secularisation has had, and will continue to have, an impact on us priests. We live in a very different country to the one in which we began our priestly ministry and for which so many of us were trained. And we can be left confused and uncertain, unsure what to do, or how to respond. We worry about youth and the disaffected, about falling numbers and the increased demands on us. We worry – but we don’t know what to do about it. Many of us can be tempted to settle simply for maintenance mode.
Of course, secularisation has brought some positives, too. Priests and bishops have been knocked from their pedestals, the culture of clericalism is being challenged as never before, and lay people are beginning to find their voice and to claim ownership of the Church.

6. Lack of support structures. It seems to me, given the work pressures and the isolation and the fears priests can feel today, that there is a real lack of structures in place to offer clergy the kind of support they need. This lack of support is apparent on several levels, and is very damaging.
Priests need help from those in authority. They need to feel that their bishop or religious superior cares about them, and that he knows their story, and that they feel they can turn to him if and when necessary. Bishops and religious superiors need to engage with their priests at a human and pastoral level, to be available to them and not set themselves apart. Bishops need to be pro-active at the practical level, too, in encouraging their priests to delegate more and to take better care of themselves. Indeed, they must insist on it when clergy are reluctant to do it.
Priests need to help themselves also. Where do we go when we need real support, someone to unburden ourselves to? The clerical world can be unnerving, even cold. Adolescent bonhomie can substitute for real communication and intimacy. We can feel alone.
Many clergy are also set in their ways, afraid or unwilling to delegate. Some still feel the need to be personally in charge of everything. Others do not promote active participation by lay people, and oppose the setting up of pastoral councils on the grounds that they only create extra work or are difficult to control. How many of us would dare to employ a full-time pastoral assistant, even if we could afford it? We need to look at how we can help ourselves in practical ways.
We need help on the emotional level too. We clergy feel uneasy about sharing our emotions, our fears, our frustrations, at a personal level. I know we Redemptorists aren’t good at it. We don’t like faith sharing. We all seem to detest small group sharing. But now, more than ever, we need to explore ways in which we can offer each other the emotional and spiritual support and solidarity each one of us so badly needs. If the structures do not exist, we need to create them.
And in this context, we need to acknowledge the role and good work of the Association of Catholic Priests. Even if one doesn’t agree with all its objectives, no one can deny that it offers priests a support structure, a voice, a forum for the exchange of views that otherwise would not exist. Given the context in which we minister as priests today, the very real problems that exist in the universal Church and the dysfunctionality at the centre that is becoming ever more obvious, we need that support, that voice, that common vision, now more than ever.
Thank God for it.

• This is the text of a talk given by Fr Gerard Moloney CSsR at an afternoon of reflection for priests in Esker Retreat House.

14 Responses

  1. Joe O'Leary

    Good article; but why single out for opprobrium those who left the priesthood? They may have been led by the Spirit.

    And the Pope’s performance at Ballybrit was a far more superficial event than people wishfully thought at the time.

    On false accusations, there is a stunning new film by Thomas Vinterberg “The Hunt” (whose 1998 movie “Festen” may have fed into the witchhunt this one denounces).

  2. Paul Walsh

    Thanks for your honesty, Gerry. As one who has recently returned from Australia, I am finding it distressing to see family and friends following the secular agenda with little reference to God. The Australian experience indicated an acceptable high profile for Church and religion. Nothing comparable to what I find at home today.
    At the same time, I totally concur with your analysis of the need for affirmation at episcopal and religious superior level. Is it fair to say that I find such distressingly absent? I can only hope and pray that the God in whom I believe gives us clergy the courage to keep going . Our unstinting service of God’s people has to be the source of our strength.

  3. Kevin's

    Thanks for sharing that Gerry. One thing I’d thought about in the past, that victims/survivors of abuse and those clerics so abused by wrong claims share so much that they might actually support each other in ways. In a few cases where guys were accused, I would love to have been able to talk to them and say ‘You did have such difficulty and unnecessary suffering in all of this; Take care of yourself’.

  4. Sean O'Conaill

    Speaking of the sad mystery of the untimely death of Fr Muiredach Tuffy, Fr Moloney writes: ” … it is a reminder of the pressures priests face today, and maybe also of the difficulty we priests have in sharing – our burdens, and questions, our anxieties and darkness.”
    .
    Does this difficulty in sharing relate to the expectation inherited by priests in Ireland that it is they who must always appear in control of everything, including their own emotions? Clericalism schools us laity to leave everything to clergy, including the finding of solutions to the church’s present decline. As priestly numbers dwindle this expectation is very likely to become an unbearable burden. Already it may well be one of the major disincentives for young men who might think of joining their number. It takes a very brave soldier indeed to volunteer to defend a fort under increasing attack, whose garrison has already been severely depleted and demoralised.
    .
    Could this impossible expectation of the ‘unbreakable priest’ be the core of the log jam that currently disables the Irish church? From the magisterium comes the implicit message ‘what crisis? – we have everything in hand’ and the nuncio too is busy reassuring us that our strengths are greater than our weaknesses. If I were a priest in Ireland today I suspect I would find this total refusal of the leadership to acknowledge reality the heaviest burden of all.
    .
    It would be far wiser for the magisterium to realise that there can be no breakthrough until there has been an admission of breakdown and failure – of the inherent non-viability of the present church model. We patently need a model that rebuilds relationships on the basis of the radical equality of all the baptised – the equality that exists in all effective mutual-support groups.
    .
    Hopefully the ACI and the ACP could model such a relationship. It will have to happen someday, so why not now, when the need is already obvious?

  5. Bernard Cotter

    Thanks for this excellent article, Gerry

  6. Paddy Ferry

    I think Sean (4 above) puts his finger exactly on the core problem we face as a church- “the inherent non-viability of the present church model”. Nothing will work to renew or revitalise our church — the New Evangelisation, the Year of Faith, or anything else, unless that core problem is addressed. And that is why so many of us support the ACP and the ACI with such enthusiasm because they are proposing a new model of church based on the vision of Vatican II

  7. Ger Gleeson

    Sean at (4) and Paddy at (6) above, are correct. That said, Fr Gerry covers a multitude of issues in his contribution. We laity can at least show that our door is always open to those priests we know, and also the stranger. After all “We are our brother’s keeper”.

  8. Soline Humbert

    Thank you Gerry for this honest, personal sharing.
    I keep my brothers in the priesthood in prayer.
    Just one comment:
    “4. Life of prayer:
    I think it is also true that on-going spiritual direction,in many cases, just doesn’t seem to happen.”
    I agree with you. In my experience many priests, especially diocesan ones, haven’t engaged in one to one spiritual direction since the seminary. Perhaps their experience then was not very fruitful, or they are not aware that the ministry of spiritual direction/guidance/accompaniment has developped. There are now male & female, married & celibate spiritual directors.
    There are times on one’s journey when spiritual accompaniment can be a life saver: when one is going through a dark night, crossing a desert,feeling lost or being caught in a storm. Spiritual direction provides a safe, confidential, non-judgemental and above all Spirit filled space.There is no need to be alone.
    Both Spiritual Directors International (SDI) and All Ireland Spiritual Guidance Association (AISGA) have helpful information on their websites, including how to find a spiritual director.
    Blessings of hope to all.

  9. Raymond Hickey Bordine

    Thank you, Sean [#4] and others for finally having the courage to say out loud what everyone is whispering about: “the inherent non-viability of the present church model”. How many more priests must out-and-out leave, commit suicide, or suffer a premature death [either in body or spirit] before the members in the pews stand up for them and change the structure! The parish cleric is under the thumb of the bishop and can rarely express how he truly feels for fear of being harassed by those holding power.

    This RCC is OUR church; it does not belong to the hierarchy at any level: from parish cleric to Pope. If we believe it is worth saving, it is up to us to eliminate the structure that is destroying it. Notice, I said ‘eliminate it’ not ‘reform it’. The church is obviously in deep distress; should we wait until it has expired and then say oh so sorrowfully ‘we should have done something’!

    This entire theory of clericalism is contrary to the mindset of Jesus, the Christ. His constant teaching on equality among followers has NO room for levels or degrees of power and control over others. We can’t all be equal but some more equal than others! The only sort of leadership potential that Jesus spoke of was servant-leadership. Are there any members of the hierarchy who practice their leadership today by trying to be servants to the other members of the church: you and me. Do servant-leaders sacrifice the children to members of their own clique in sexual perversion and then attempt to hide the scandal so that they can preserve their social standing? Do servant-leaders live in mansions and live like royalty while members of the community suffer in poverty and with homelessness? Do servant-leaders abuse their authority to intimidate and bully those who write things that they find offensive because they are contrary to their own opinions? I think not. Time to make the RCC a Christian church!

    There is obviously something gravely wrong with any institution where leaders are leaving at a frightful rate while others are dying prematurely and unnaturally. Something is terribly corrupt when those who were called to service are leaving in perturbation and dismay. This is not a tree bearing good, healthy fruit!

  10. Patrick

    Good article, covered most of the things affecting priests today. One problem that I also see is that when priests come together we are rarely able to talk about our problems or stresses or even what makes us joyful in faith. Conversation always ends up talking about priests from a bygone age who were great characters, priests that died before I was even born! Why is this? Is it that we have to be seen to be in control and perfect and can’t show weakness. Do other professions have the same problem amongst themselve? Surely it’s not just a “priest thing”!

    On the point of sabbatical, even with the shortage of priests, priests should be made take a sabbatical every ten years, it benefits everyone in the long run. Those in authority don’t seem to realise this, nor those who should take one, thinking that they can’t be done without! We are all replaceable!

    Thanks again for the article!

  11. Seamus Ahearne osa

    Thanks Gerry. Your article, was heartfelt. It resonates with the experience of many. Joanna Merry’s article in the current issue of the Furrow tells a similar story. I have said often during the year (following the sale of Munch’s ‘The Scream’ for $120m) that we could all do with such a picture. That Scream is volcanic at present in the church and in many priests. It all shouts out why we need (so clearly and badly) ACP.

  12. Joseph Quigley

    What Father Gerry wrote about Ireland could apply with very little modification to Australia, where I live.
    This should not be surprising since the Catholic Church in Australia tended to be more Irish than Roman.
    Of course since the end of World War 2 the influx of migrants from continental Europe and since the mid-1970s migrants and refugees from South East Asia has diluted that Irishness and created a more international flavour to the church. This has its pros and cons which I won’t debate here.
    But something I noticed in Ireland when I visited there in 2003 and which I saw emerging in Australia in the 1980 was the effect of Thatcherite economics. In Ireland it was called The Celtic Tiger. In Australia it produced The White Shoe Brigade (financial con-men). Eat. drink and be merry because you can borrow all the money you like.
    I am not a Marxist but I do think use could be made of Marxist theory to illuminate what happened to the church in the modern world. The church couldn’t see what was happening in the economy and the money market because it had become a player in the capitalist system. With the best of motives I am sure but when one starts chasing higher profits on one’s investments, Mammon has a habit of blinding one to one’s moral and ethical behaviour.
    I am not referring to sexual morality specifically here, although it certainly forms part of being “merry”.
    Responsible economic activity looks at the triple bottom line:
    effect on profit,
    effect on social conditions, and
    effect on the evironment.
    Alas when the church’s investors and its upward socially mobile middle class concentrated on profit, the impact on social conditions and the environment was considered less and less, if at all.
    God help the bewildered parish priest and/or curate operating in that social situation.

  13. Bob Cushing

    Brothers, thank you for your candid revelations and commentary on your present experience of the stress and struggle in the priesthood. As others have said, the US is not Ireland, but we find most of your descriptions as applicable to the heart of our struggle as well. Your association (ACP) helped to give birth to ours (AUSCP) and remaining in touch with you spurs us on to take better care of one another in our own back yard.

    You Irish have a wonderful knack for articulating the pathos, passion and color of the human journey, a poetry and prose that we admire and a gift that motivates us to learn to tell our own story as well, and then to act on the inspirations of the Spirit. May this larger dialogue between our nations and ecclesial communities empower our mutual discernment and response in terms of more co-ordinated efforts to be a presbyterate united in our on-going conversion in the way of Jesus and his gospel.

    Happy Thanksgiving from the Association of US Catholic Priests!
    and Bob Cushing, the Bulletin Editor and a Board member.

  14. Kevin

    I do hope that whether the priests are in service or, service ‘outisde’ so to speak, that you can get support systems in place. The needs are universal, human, in a unique context. You don’t have someone to share with at the end of the day. It s NOT good that the human being be alone. I am not talking marriage or wife necessarily. But we all need someone. That this young priest who died so tragically young. I get a sense he was one, like many, many priests perhaps, by the calling itself it seems at times, who is not able to say ‘no’.

    Emotional bankruptcy, burnout happens so fast. The despairing, suicidal is something I pray for daily. Can happen to any of us. I remind at times, without scaremongering, that medications can be reponsible at times. I know a girl shot herself and I don’t doubt the medication in that instance was part of it. It’s important to know cause of the questions those left behind ask. A young man died April 2006 and stopped me going the same way. Reaching out, seeking help and support and I find it hard to ask – though will reach out to anyone. I do believe this to be a great thing to work at, cause at the least it will start to create what should always be there – not just sense of community, religious or lay – but family, real brothers and sisters. Lift the phone, write the letter/email, call to the house and get to really know each other. I think there is a lot of that being able to give great advice but inability to ask help, and take our own.

    This IS GOOD. Keep with it. Look to each other and less about Rome. It will look after itself.

    God bless this endeavour and the Spirit guide all with it.

    Even though a looped out text book basket case. :-). I can listen to anyone and good at it. We ALL need that some time. Take care of yourselves.