by Gordon Nary
Gordon: Where did you receive your Masters in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work and what was the most challenging course that you took?
Kirsten: I completed my Masters in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work at Mater Dei College, Dublin. This was the most challenging course I took because I was very shy in starting the course. My Degree and Masters in Theology were more academic-based so I could essentially hide behind books. The Chaplaincy Masters focused more on personal development, professional development, and placement. I was blessed to have my placement in my home parish helping prepare children for their First Holy Communion. It helped my confidence to grow and pushed me outside my comfort zone.
Gordon: Why did you decide to be a youth evangelist and what are some of the challenges in youth evangelizing in Ireland?
Kirsten: The decision to become a youth evangelist had been percolating in my mind for many years. While I was working in St Peter's Church in Phibsborough, I was asked to be a part of the Parish Mission Team as a youth minister. It was an amazing opportunity to work with young people and help them come to know the Lord in their lives through testimony, prayer, and fellowship. In 2018, I made the move from parish work into youth evangelization with the Archdiocese of Dublin. Through working with groups of young people I have realized that faith is not something that they feel 100% open about discussing. Many of the young people I work with have the desire to engage in their faith but are essentially do not feel part of a community. The Archdiocese of Dublin through St Paul’s Youth Outreach offers several initiatives that help build up skills of youth faith leadership, form communities and continue to help young people explore life, faith, and purpose.
Gordon: To what parish do you belong and what are some of the more rewarding experiences you have had at your parish?
Kirsten: I belong to St Mochtas Parish in Porterstown. I have been a part of this parish my whole life. It is a beautiful community, which has supported my family and myself through good and bad times. I was lucky enough to do a placement here for my master’s in Chaplaincy. I worked with an amazing team on the children’s liturgy. I also helped create and run a sacramental preparation program for children in the local educate together to school.
Gordon: For our readers who may not be aware of some of the political challenges in Ireland, please provide an overview of the abortion controversy.
Kirsten: Abortion was first banned in Ireland in 1861 by the Offences Against the Persons Act. In 1983, the eighth amendment of the constitution came into effect, which acknowledges the right to the life of the unborn, as equal to the right of life of the mother. In 2012, a young woman named Savita Halappanavar passed away in University Hospital Galway. She was 17 weeks pregnant. The cause of death was recorded as severe sepsis, E.coli in the bloodstream and a miscarriage at 17 weeks. Her death made national and international headlines and precipitated a huge rallying cry for changes to Irish law in respect of abortion. In 2013 The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was signed into law, legalizing abortion when doctors deem that a woman’s life is at risk due to medical complications or if she is at risk of attempting suicide. It also introduces a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment for having or assisting in an unlawful abortion. In 2018 following recommendations made by the eight-amendment committee, a referendum was called on whether to repeal or keep the eighth amendments in the Irish law. On 25th May 2018, the eighth amendments was sadly repealed.
Gordon: You previously worked as a swimming instructor. Where did you work and what are some of the challenges in teaching children how to swim?
Kirsten: I taught swimming in Coolmine Sports Complex for 10 years. Probably the biggest challenged I faced was keeping their attention at times if you teach swimming you will know that children sometimes prefer playing under the water than listening to their teacher! But overall it was a great experience, especially when you see children that may have struggled to learn the skills of swimming progress into becoming very competent swimmer!
Gordon: Based on your experience, how is swimming instruction similar to evangelism?
Kirsten: Many people do not realize that sport has an important part to play in the development of our faith. Learning how to play a sport as part of a team, allows us to learn how to work together towards a common goal. Through team sports, we begin to focus on working hard for the teams benefit instead of for our benefit. This is important for us as Christians as it helps us to realize that we need to work together as a team in our Christian Mission – to live as God has asked us too. Even though swimming is looked at as an individual sport, I would always encourage the children I teach to support one another, celebrate each other achievements and help each other if they were struggling with some of the skills. It was important for me as a teacher that my students felt they were part of a team where they could be themselves and build each other up.
Gordon; Thank you for an inspirational interview