Fr. Colm would go so far as to say the local people’s support “…from early on in Drogheda amazed me by the level of involvement in the Augustinian. We have been blessed with people active and interested in their faith, their church and in being Augustinians. We are especially known for our music which varies every Sunday as well as having two static choirs here: The Augustinian Choir and the Augustinian Gospel Choir. A few years ago, when we as a province first started seriously engaging with the laity all communities were invited to meet with their volunteers and those interested in the Augustinians to gauge the level of support etc. We had to hire a room in a hotel as over 120 people turned up! There is hardly ever a time that you can walk through our church and not find someone at prayer, chatting to a friend, or lighting a candle. The friars are very much loved here and supported because we make an effort to be visible, to be among the community and they appreciate that.”
Fr. Colm has brought this sense of community into the way he deals with the inclusion of the marginalised in society such as those with disabilities. He states with great enthusiasm that “there should be no physical barriers to people entering our buildings to pray or participate in whatever is going on.” This is the very reason why he installed a disability access point in the church and insisted that the construction of the Garden of Remembrance be accessible to all, especially those with limited mobility. A passionate and active member of the Augustinian Lay Forum he always encourages people to use their voice and take leadership roles in the lay organisation and in the running of their church. Fr. Colm points out that “the laity who work with us are “Augustinians”. They enable us to do so much and they really want to be part of our journey. The friars may come and go in a particular area, but the people stay and carry on this sense of welcome, inclusion, non-judgement, laughter; in essence community. It is about empowering them to have a real voice, a real role, which isn’t always easy as sometimes the friars do not like change.” In more recent years the Augustinians in Drogheda featured prominently during the Fleadh festivals. Over two years there were concerts, talks and poetry recitals held in the Church and Garden of Remembrance. Yet, another way that the Augustinians in Drogheda support a church that is there for everyone to feel at home in.
Reflecting over the past few years since joining the Augustinians Fr. Colm comments that “I never thought I would do half the things I have done. I loved working in the prison and in the school and hospital. I love meeting people who are trying to figure out if they have a vocation. I love community life; it is not always easy or perfect but the care, love and support I have experienced from my Augustinian brothers has been amazing at times. We like each other and like being in each other’s company even though we may be from different background experiences, ages, outlook, etc. I sense God when I am with them and in my ministry.”
We started Fr. Colm’s story in Cork and travelled along his life’s journey, taking stops at key moments that have shaped him. But if anything, we hope this has been a story that has journeyed to your heart and you have connected with a man, a friar and an Augustinian who has grown in the Augustinian tradition of community and prayer to now share that same fellowship with those he now serves.
The Augustinian life is about living together in harmony as we journey with God and to God. We have been present in Ireland since shortly after the Order was founded in 1256. So our roots in Ireland are deep and longstanding. As an international order, we are numbered in the thousands worldwide. However, currently here in Ireland, we have 82 friars. While there are many challenges in Ireland we are excited about the opportunities they offer us. As it is the challenges of life that provide the greatest growth. So as things change rapidly in Ireland it is worth remembering Thaddeus of Vitovnica words,
Everything is changing; nothing remains static.
In our conversations and our meetings with people, we recognise the truth of this changing environment. However, our tradition and history provide an inspiration for us and many others. As it is our tradition and history that shows us how life ebbs and flows over time, all the while leading us deeper into God’s great mystery of love.