Sunday 2nd July 2023 – A day the Columba Community will never forget. A day that hearts were warmed. A day that hope rose throughout the North West of Ireland and we witnessed the goodness of God in their lives through the ordination of our dear friend and community member Fr Shaun Doherty.
Fr Shaun’s journey, testimony and inner calling to his ministry spans many years, always having a solid foundation in faith from a young age and it was both a blessing and a privilege that we, his community family, were graced to be able to share in witnessing the sacred ceremony of Holy Orders on Sunday past at Saint Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry.
As a humble, gentle and quiet listening ear to many over the air waves on Highland for almost three decades, Fr Shaun’s listeners will testify to the wonderful and faithful man he is. On Sunday, at the welcome reception at the Iosas Centre and Celtic Prayer Garden, Fr Shaun explained how grateful he was to have so many family and friends from all colours of his life be present to celebrate such a momentous occasion.
With the Cathedral at full capacity with loved ones and friends, it was impossible not to feel the emotion rise as Bishop Donal McKeown, Fr Paul Farren, Fr Michael Canny and many priests from throughout the diocese gathered in prayer as the sacred ceremony commenced. Having never been to an ordination before, I personally felt humbled and blessed to behold such majesty as God’s light penetrated through so many holy men and women in a church full of gratitude, joy and love.
The embrace of Bishop Donal in particular as well as the Laying on of Hands from fellow priests brought tears to many as the congregation beheld God’s lavish love in action through the fire of the spirit alive and present to each one.
Everything about the day flowed so perfectly- guided by the hand of God. Fr Shaun highlighted that he did the easy part as Fr Farren joked “all you had to do was show up”, not forgetting how much work, time, dedication and commitment was spent in ensuring Fr Shaun’s day was exactly how the Lord would have wanted.
Not only exactly how the Lord would have wanted but also how each heart who loved and loves Fr Shaun would have wanted too. Columba Community Founder and prophetic leader Fr Neal Carlin had a profound impact on Fr Shaun’s life. From his early twenties, a friendship guided by the Lord himself which began in Columba House, Fr Shaun explained is one of the reasons for his journey to the priesthood.
At the ordination I couldn’t help but notice an empty chair on the altar. We always associate the empty chair with those who have gone before us to their heavenly reward and deep in my spirit there was an inner knowing that the chair was not empty in those moments. Fr Neal’s spirit was very present with us that day. The chair was always waiting for Fr Shaun as if the Lord was saying “its your turn now.”
As a community family along with our leader Marguerite Hamilton we feel incredibly blessed to have accompanied Fr Shaun on his journey in faith. He has taught us the importance of listening for the gentle guiding light of the Spirit to prompt and carry us forward, trusting in the goodness and mercy of God knowing that “it is through the hand of another we are helped.”
Just like the lost sheep depicted in Fr Shaun’s prayer card, we are never forgotten by God. At times we may not know it but throughout our lifetime His gaze is ever upon us, seeking us out and bringing us home to our hearts once again. Praise the Lord that through Fr Shaun’s ordination the flames and fire of Christ’s love in each of our hearts have been both reignited and rekindled once again with the zeal of Pentecost. This is a cause of great rejoicing.
Jacklyn Roberts is a member of the Columba Community, Derry and Donegal.