By Gordon Nary
Gordon: When you received your vocation, why did you decide to be a Capuchin Franciscan Friar?
Fr. Bryan: I was impressed by the Capuchin habit having met a friar who visited our school. When I went to Church Street friary for a vocations workshop in the mid-1980s, I was impressed by the friar’s enthusiasm, brotherhood, and the ice cream for dessert after dinner!
Gordon: Where did you attend seminary and what was the most interesting course that you took?
Fr. Bryan: After Novitiate, I studied philosophy in Milltown Park from 1990-1992 and I studied Theology at All Hallows College from 1993-1997. I made Perpetual Profession of Vows in 1994 and I was Ordained to the Priesthood in 1997. I loved theology and scripture, especially the gospels.
Gordon: Why did you continue your studies to earn a Master’s Degree in School Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care?
Fr. Bryan: My first appointment after ordination was as a school chaplain and I found that it would be beneficial to further train in teaching and pastoral care. I did the Graduate Diploma in 2001 and the MA in 2004.
Gordon: Where were you initially assigned/
Fr. Bryan: My first appointment was in Schools from 1997 to 2007; 1997-2001 in Dublin at Coolmine Community School in the Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown, and 2001-2007 in Cork. I was Guardian of our Friary in Rochestown, Cork alongside my work in our boy’s secondary school; St. Francis College, Rochestown, Cork.
Gordon: When were you assigned to St. Michan's Parish and approximately how many parishioners do you have?
Fr. Bryan: After I finished in Cork, I was appointed as Chaplain to Beaumont Hospital, Dublin in 2007 for three years, and in 2010 I was appointed Guardian of our Friary in Church Street, Dublin and Parish Priest (Pastor) of St. Michan’s Parish, Dublin. It is the oldest Parish on the north side of Dublin city and we have approx. 6,500 parishioners. I was reappointed Parish Priest last year at our Capuchin Provincial Chapel (which we have every three years)
Gordon: For our readers who may not know who St. Michan was could you provide an overview of his life and why he was named as a saint?
Fr. Bryan: In the 10th or 11th century, when St. Michan, a bishop ministered, his cult progressed thanks to his flock in a sense. After he died, he was proclaimed a saint by the will of the people. This would have been similar to the other ancient Irish saints like Patrick, Brigid, Colmcille, etc…
A hostel, dedicated to St. Michan was set up at the Ath-Cliath (or ford across the river Liffey) – This location is close to where the Phoenix Park is today It was a place for the wayfarers to go between Tara and South Leinster, and so St. Michan became the Apostle of the Ath Cliath, instructing and giving hospitality to the men of the south and the north. St. Michan is mentioned in A Calendar of Irish Saints as “Michen of Cill-Michen in Atha Cliath,” and his feast is the 25th August. Dublin city is known in Gaelic as ‘Dubh-Linn’ or the ‘black pool’ and also ‘Baile Átha Cliath’ or the ‘town of the ford of the hurdles.’
Gordon: What are some of the current challenges surrounding Catholic primary education in Ireland?
Fr. Bryan: Traditionally because most primary schools in Ireland are part of the Catholic parish, the sacraments of the Eucharist (First Communion) and Confirmation are prepared for and celebrated in school. In other words, children receive their First Holy Communion in second class primary (at 8 years old) and receive the Sacrament of confirmation in sixth class primary (at 12 years old) They would then graduate to secondary school. There is an over-emphasis on the ceremony and on the ‘big day’ in each case and the emphasis on the sacrament is played down. While not necessarily deliberate, there is huge financial pressure today in Ireland on parents to dress the children and an industry has grown up around Holy Communions and Confirmations (clothes, food, parties, events) These are not necessarily bad things in themselves, but we need to recapture the mystery of the sacrament for the whole life of the child and as she or he grows up.
We need to explore a more parish and family-centered approach to the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation rather than it being more or less exclusively prepared for in the school. While the teachers do an excellent job with the religious education programme at a primary school level, more and more engagement is needed at the parish and home level. It’s a work in progress.
Gordon: What social media resources do you use?
Fr. Bryan: Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and Facebook
Gordon: Based on your experience, can social media be a helpful evangelization resource?
Fr. Bryan: Yes. “Go out and teach all nations…”
Gordon: How many followers do you have on your Twitter account?
Fr. Bryan: 2,864 at the moment…
Gordon: Do you have any opinion on President Trump’s immigration policies?
Fr. Bryan: I am aware of the plight of the undocumented Irish in the United States and I would support any initiative to help people who are trying to make a living and pay their taxes in America, to legally settle there and to raise their families there. We Irish are so aware of how America opened its arms to the thousands of Irish who fled here during the Great Famine in the 1840s. The United States was always a place of welcome, safety, and opportunity for people.
Gordon: Could we conclude this interview with a prayer to St. Michan?
Fr. Bryan: St. Michan, patron of our parish, guide and protect us, our families and our friends. Lead us in prayer as you led our ancestors. Bring us safely through trials and difficulties, and help us recognize your guiding hand in our times of joy and good fortune. Your faith in Jesus Christ and in the Scripture inspired the people of the North Inner City for a millennium and through them, your wisdom and leadership is visible in every continent on the globe. With gratitude in our hearts and a deep faith in the power of your intercession, we ask you to continue watching over us and all those we love. We make this prayer through Christ Our Lord. Amen.