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Previous Events | 2015

Thanksgiving special Food4Soul, Food4Body

On T‌hursday 26 November, Thanksgiving Day, about forty students trooped into St. Stephen's chaplaincy for our ecumenical gathering. We were especially happy to welcome our American friends on this their special feastday. 

The occasion was special for a number of other reasons too: end of semester and the imminent departure of some of our dear friends who will soon return to their homeland. We thank God for their friendship and wish them 'God speed' on their journey. 

We remember also all those who will be travelling throughout Europe over the Christmas Season - that they will remain under the protective mantle of Mary. 

Here's some history, if you're curious about the origins of this feast-day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving

C‌hristmas Ecumencial Carol Service

C‌hristmas Ecumencial Carol Service at 6pm in Fitzgerald Chambers, new Student Centre. 

This event was jointly hosted by the Newman Society, Christian Union and Livingstones. 

There was lots of singing of favourite Christmas carols as well as time to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. Mr. Peter Kenny and Fr. Leon Ó Giolláin helped unpack the meaning of Christmas for us in two short presentations. 

Here is the full text of Fr. Leon's presentation:  http://www.ucd.ie/chaplaincy/homiliestalksreports/


Interfaith Devotional - Let Us Pray for France

Monday 15 November, 5-5.30pm, St. Stephen's chaplaincy, Contemplation Room. 

M‌onday afternoon's Interfaith Devotional was dedicated to the memory of victims of recent violence in Paris. 

For a short half-hour, those of different faith traditions and none gathered in solidarity to remember those who have been killed and injured and to pray together for peace. We joined  together in our common desire to build a world of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence where all our sisters and brothers have a place, a home, in the human family. 

Here is a most beautiful prayer recited by one of the participants, which captures perfectly the attitude we must adopt to such atrocities. It draws us upward and helps us to view our wounded world through God's eyes: 

O God, my God!  Thou seest how black darkness is enshrouding all regions, how all countries are burning with the flame of dissension, and the fire of war and carnage is blazing throughout the East and the West.  Blood is flowing, corpses bestrew the ground, and severed heads are fallen on the dust of the battlefield.

O Lord!  Have pity on these ignorant ones, and look upon them with the eye of forgiveness and pardon.  Extinguish this fire, so that these dense clouds which obscure the horizon may be scattered, the Sun of Reality shine forth with the rays of conciliation, this intense gloom be dispelled and the resplendent light of peace shed its radiance upon all countries.

O Lord!  Draw up the people from the abyss of the ocean of hatred and enmity, and deliver them from this impenetrable darkness.  Unite their hearts, and brighten their eyes with the light of peace and reconciliation.  Deliver them from the depths of war and bloodshed, and free them from the darkness of error.  Remove the veil from their eyes, and enlighten their hearts with the light of guidance.  Treat them with Thy tender mercy and compassion, and deal not with them according to Thy justice and wrath which cause the limbs of the mighty to quake.

O Lord!  Wars have persisted.  Distress and anxiety have waxed great, and every flourishing region is laid waste.

O Lord!  Hearts are heavy, and souls are in anguish.  Have mercy on these poor souls, and do not leave them to the excesses of their own desires.

O Lord!  Make manifest in Thy lands humble and submissive souls, their faces illumined with the rays of guidance, severed from the world, extolling Thy Name, uttering Thy praise, and diffusing the fragrance of Thy holiness amongst mankind.

O Lord!  Strengthen their backs, gird up their loins, and enrapture their hearts with the most mighty signs of Thy love.

O Lord!  Verily, they are weak, and Thou art the Powerful and the Mighty; they are impotent, and Thou art the Helper and the Merciful.

O Lord!  The ocean of rebellion is surging, and these tempests will not be stilled save through Thy boundless grace which hath embraced all regions.

O Lord!  Verily, the people are in the abyss of passion, and naught can save them but Thine infinite bounties.

O Lord!  Dispel the darkness of these corrupt desires, and illumine the hearts with the lamp of Thy love through which all countries will erelong be enlightened.  Confirm, moreover, Thy loved ones, those who, leaving their homelands, their families and their children, have, for the love of Thy Beauty, traveled to foreign countries to diffuse Thy fragrances and promulgate Thy Teachings.  Be Thou their companion in their loneliness, their helper in a strange land, the remover of their sorrows, their comforter in calamity.  Be Thou a refreshing draught for their thirst, a healing medicine for their ills and a balm for the burning ardor of their hearts.

Verily, Thou art the Most Generous, the Lord of grace abounding, and, verily, Thou art the Compassionate and the Merciful.


Why do bad things happen to good people?

On Thursday 5 November, 4pm St. Stephen's chaplaincy, about twenty or so students from various faith traditions and none, met to share on the mystery of human suffering and death: How do we deal with this human reality? How do we understand it? How does our faith enlighten our understanding? 

Our sharing was most enriching, conducted as always in an atmosphere peace, openness and mutual respect. 

Common themes emerging in our discussion were: human life as a preparation for eternal life; trials (such as suffering) havinv their place in this itinerary, helping us to relativise and prioriise and grow in wisdom; suffering having a value in forming our personality, in helping us to grow as persons, to become more human. Good coming from evil. Even when suffering seems to crush a person under its weight, this very suffering can elicit in others compassion and love and hence some value in that suffering even if not apparent in the person directly affected, may be seen in this positive social effect. Ultimately, God is good and his good purposes for human beings is achieved even through suffering, which, because of an imperfect world, is inevitable. 


Our Interfaith gathering on 15 October 2015 at St. Stephen's chaplaincy, centred on the refugee crisis: how faith - whatever that faith is - casts light on one's response and responsibility vis-à-vis this current humanitarian situation. The harrowing picture of Aylan Kurdi, a little three-year-old boy washed up on the Turkish shore in a vain attempt to flee war with his family, galvanised Europe into more decisive, determined and compassionate action. How does faith enlighten and inspire appropriate action? 

A clear point of convergence of all faiths was the obligation to help one's neighbour in need. 

As always, our exchange of views rooted in the wisdom of our various traditions, proved very enriching. Our mutual understanding and respect grows and our friendship is always helped by a warm cuppa and home-made scones!



Tuesday 29 September 2015, 6pm prayer. 6.30pm meal. All welcome. 

This is a defining moment for Europe! Europe was founded on Christian principles. Its roots are deeply Christian. Now these Christian foundations are being tested as we face an unprecedented influx of refugees fleeing war and conflict. Already, the grass-roots response has been overwhelmingly positive. Politicians are finally catching up with the will of the people! 

Let's gather to pray for the strength to meet the challenges ahead with courage and determination. And let's see what we can achieve together, united, Christians of all denominations joining forces to extend Christ's embrace as widely as possible! 


Some pics below of our guests, which numbered over thirty and hailed from various different Christian denominations and other traditions. Smiles all around! 

Newman Society Welcome

A picture paints a thousand words! Newman drew a large crowd for the opening event of Newman Society. He looks upon the Society with appropriate pride! 

end Chaplaincy general start Chaplaincy general

Chaplains' Welcome to new students

On Thursday 3 September at 4pm, at St. Stephen's chaplaincy, there was an informal reception with teas/coffees/scones to welcome our new students to UCD. 

Students from various societies (Newman, Christian Union, Livingstones, SVP, World Aid, etc.) gave a quick preview of their association with St. Stephen's chaplaincy. 

Great turn-out! Lots of new people coming to the chaplaincy for the first time. We look forward to getting to know them better over the course of the year. 


O‌n the 12th of April 2015, Ashley Seeley (third from left), a Vet student at UCD from Virginia, U.S.A., was confirmed by Fr. Leon (second from left) at the public 11.30 Mass in UCD following a year's instruction and accompanied that included her sponsor Briana (first from left).

To Ashley's left, her boyfriend Pat who travalled from the U.S.A. to be with Ashley on this very special occasion. 

After the religious ceremony, a group of Ashley's friends returned to St. Stephen's chaplaincy for a bite to eat!

What a lovely day it was! Praise the Lord! 


Medical ethics

‌A series of lectures on Catholic Medical Ethics was the initiative of David Yung, a medical student in RCSI. It was hosted by the chaplains at UCD. 

A number of speakers on the topic led discussions. E.g. Fr. Gavin Jennings explored some of the principles of ethics as applied to medicine. 

Congress University Pastoral Care Europe

Fr. Leon and Professor Kaja Ka?mierska, Professor of Sociology at the University of ?ód? in Poland, speaking at the European meeting of university chaplains in ?ód?, 16-19 April 2015. The theme of the Congress was Being and Becoming responsible in Life. Some 50 delegates from all over Europe, east and west, including several Bishops, attended. His Grace, Mgr Marek J?draszewsi, Archbishop of ?ód?, hosted the event. Here is a link to the press-release: http://www.ccee.eu/pls/ccee/V3_S2EW_CONSULTAZIONE.mostra_pagina?id_pagina=4361&rifi=guest&rifp=guest. 

Photographs: https://plus.google.com/photos/104060986413485695370/albums/6137958122445679441?authkey=CLvn8pSQkOLqugE

The Congress explored the theme of life, i.e. the fulness of life offered by Jesus in the Gospel. More specifically, it asked: How can university chaplains help students to discover the fulness of life of the gospel in a secularised European culture which so easily truncates and restricts the full expanse - the height and depth - of the human calling? Fr. Leon attempted the following synthesis of proceedings on the final day of the Congress:

Several images arising from the inputs and discussions over these last days strike me as useful in attempting a synthesis of our proceedings. I have tried not only to capture them but also to frame them in a pastoral setting, i.e. always with the question: How can we help our university students to discover and live the fullness of life of the Gospel?

The first image is that of a bubble. This image of a culture creating a self-referential bubble – some have called it a ‘selfie culture’ – that encloses our students in a solipsistic narcissism incapable of opening up to the other and the Other  - is akin to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s image of a bunker with no sky-light which describes the existential situation of many of our contemporaries – one that sees them shut in and shutting out the great light and true light, relying solely on the artificial light of its own creating. Perhaps, we suggested, this situation accounts in some measure for the ‘spiritual desolation’ – a lack of real passion and enthusiasm for life – we find not infrequently among the young and which sometimes finds expression in the all-too-high rates of suicide in this cohort, in European countries at least. Our task is to burst the bubble, to break through the walls of the bunker and open our students’ minds and hearts to the great beyond, to Transcendence, to the Source of Life, the Alpha and the Omega as Professor Gorki mentioned.

The second image is that of a boat, which Nathalie offered us. This image encapsulates the invitation we offer to students to leave self behind and go out into the open sea, to face the insecurities of life and to learn to negotiate the winds and currents of existence. I note that this image is not that of a canoe, where one is alone! No, the boat has a team, a community there to help and to compensate for the weaknesses in any one individual. And indeed, if we take the image further and place it in a gospel context, Jesus is also present discretely, perhaps asleep, but awake nevertheless to our needs and ready to calm the storm when our wellbeing is seriously threatened. The boat, Nathalie suggests, is a metaphor for Church, the community of the faithful gathered around Jesus. Our pastoral activity not only opens students to the Transcendent, the eternal Father, but also to Jesus the Son, who accompanies us on our journey through life in a privileged way through the community of the Church.  This point was much underlined by Mgr Horrelich who said we must introduce Catholic students who may find themselves alone and isolated in and against a secular world, to faith-groups where they can find nourishment and support.

The third image is that of a lion, which Damir offered us. Let it out of the cage, he suggested. (Dangerous!) Be bold in our proclamation. This suggestion is not unlike Pope Francis’ exhortation to young people at WYD in Rio, when he said to them ‘Go out! Have courage! Make noise!' This image suggests to me the Holy Spirit, Pentecost and the shedding of any timidity or reluctance in proclaiming Jesus as Lord. Our pastoral service of the young requires us not only to listen, but to proclaim, to speak, to say to them ‘Look there is the lamb of God’. (The Prefect of the Vatican Congregation, Cardinal Grocholewski, underscored this point, showing the way to reach an integral humanism: “only by showing Christ, leading people to Christ, do we reveal to them the most appropriate path to reach the fullness of humanity, to purify and enrich every culture”. In this sense, said Cardinal Grocholewski, “university pastoral work becomes a total commitment in the work of evangelisation”).

The fourth image is that of ‘singing and dancing’, suggested by Paul van Geest in his stimulating talk, when he spoke of St. Augustine and ‘honesty’, i.e. the harmony or consistency between who I am (being) and how I act (doing). Singing and dancing speaks also of ‘spiritual consolation’, joy, beauty – an image which stands in sharp contrast with the spiritual desolation of the bubble image. We, as pastors, should be singing and dancing! We will, if we are people of prayer, people of interiority and of depth, as Bishop Horrelich underlined. We should witness to the joy and beauty of gospel living, and in this way above all, attract our students to the fullness of life offered by it.

The final image, which may be placed with the one above, is that of HOME, suggested by Kaja in her wonderful presentation. The importance of roots and rootedness and the necessity we all share of ‘coming home’ to ourselves, accepting and integrating all aspects of our life history, including the painful and traumatic ones. (We think of the Jewish lady who longed to return to Poland to revisit the place of her childhood). We cannot sing and dance really unless we make peace with our personal history – all aspects of it. The image evokes another image - that of the Prodigal Father who receives his exiled and impoverished son with such tenderness and love and invites him back to the banquet of life where he belongs. This too is our task as pastors, not only to experience our own brokenness, our own sinfulness, our own alienation from the Father and thus also come to know the Father’s loving embrace, his forgiveness, his mercy, but to be that loving embrace for our students many of whom because of a secularised culture, are alienated from the Father, but who still seek the fullness of life and truth. We are there (in loco Patris?) waiting, hoping, ready to help, to understand, to welcome home, to embrace, to heal and restore.

So, we need to burst the bubble of secularism, embark on a voyage of personal discovery and growth with Jesus in the boat of the Church; we need to roar like a lion, make noise, and proclaim from the rooftops the message of Jesus. We need to sing and dance and draw others into the joyful rhythm of the gospel. We do this not alone, but in the Father’s house, in the community of the Church which is the haven, the refuge we all seek and towards which we direct our students, so that they may indeed enjoy the fullness of life for which we have been created.

These are some of the key elements of university pastoral care and the mission of the chaplain, which we have reflected upon in these days.

Student Retreat

A picture paints a thousand words! This is the group after the retreat!All look relatively happy and content! 

This retreat took place in the beautiful setting of Magheramore, Co. Wicklow, a stone's throw from the beach (above). Dates: Friday 27 March (6pm) until Sunday 29 March (after lunch at 1pm). 

It was a silent retreat, giving each one the space and solitude to be attentive to the gentle presence of God who speaks to the heart!

Elaine looked after food for the body which was excellent. Fr. Leon took care of 'food for the soul', providing individual guidance and group input to help people along. 


Food4Soul, Food4Body

Tuesday, March 24th at 6.00pm at St Stephen's Chaplaincy.

We - Christians of all denominations - reflected on and prayed for the Suffering Church and for those Christians who are persecuted, even killed, for naming the name of Jesus Christ.  

'The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard...It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ' (Pope Francis to an ecumenical delegation from Scotland following the martyrdom of twenty one Coptic Christians by ISIS). 

'For me, ecumenism is a priority. Today, we have the ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians because they wear a cross or have a Bible, and before killing them they don't ask if they're Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics or Orthodox. The blood is mixed' (Pope Francis in an interview for an Italian newspater, Dec 2013).  

We rejoice that we were free to gather for worship AND to enjoy a meal afterwards.


Regenerate - Interfaith Seminar

‘Do You Care? Do You Care about Dialogue?

 That was the theme of this year’s “Regenerate,” an annual event of the young people of the Focolare Movement from Ireland and Great Britain. Following recent events in Paris, dialogue has become a pressing challenge.

 The group of over 90 young Christians and Muslims students gathered in London for the event. The topic was ‘multiculturalism, religious diversity and dialogue.’ The question posed:Do you care? The format for the conference was to spend two days at Hertfordshire, in a relaxed atmosphere where even burning issues were discussed. The participants were young people from Greta Britian and Ireland and this year, a group from the Islamic Unity Society with whom there has been growing friendship and mutual esteem, collaborating in several projects, study sessions and planting peace trees.

The students listened directly to the experience of Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali, Director of the Islamic Centre of England, who spoke in a Skype conference from Paris. He encouraged the group to “encourage opportunities of dialogue with everyone: dialogue is what characterises us as human beings. Accepting to dialogue with anyone who is different from us does not diminish us, but makes us more true to ourselves.”

A guest speaker was Angela Graham who worked at BBC TV. Raised in Northern Ireland, she began from her own experience as she encouraged the young people to become “people of dialogue” within their own environments, trying to build bridges with people of other cultures and faiths.

During the weekend of February 14-15, 2015 at Welwyn Garden City there were workshops on various topics: from interreligious dialogue to the social media; from politics to social commitment. “It’s quite striking to experience here people who are so passionate about living and working with God,” said Mohammed Mozaffari, one of the young Muslim men from the Islamic Unity Society. Lucia, from the Young for People for Unity group remarked: “The differences are not an obstacle, but an aid for building something together.” “Even those who had difficulty in identifying with a formal religion felt quite at ease, and builders like the rest of us,” say Nino and Mil who were among the organisers of the event. A UCD student remarked: “I also particularly appreciated the midnight mediation on Saturday night. It was nice to have some quiet time after a really busy day to pray and think about what happened during the day. I really liked the fact that there were sentences from the Koran, the Bible, and different texts to help us in our meditation. It was a really deep moment for me. Another good moment was the interfaith workshop. We had to speak in pairs about different questions regarding the religion of the other person and its way of practicing. There were deep questions that lead to interesting conversations on interfaith dialogue... A really interesting exchange !

The event did not go unnoticed by civil leaders. Town Councilman, Michal Siewniak, stated: “It is encouraging to see young adults from different cultural and religious backgrounds becoming mutually involved in dialogue, and together looking for answers on how to live in harmony within a multicultural and multi-religious society.”

For a fuller account of this conference see http://www.focolare.org/ireland/news/2015/02/20/dialogue-does-not-diminish-people-but-makes-them-stronger/

Fr. John in Manila

John Mc Nerney was a speaker at the 9th International Conference on Catholic Social Thought and Business Education which took place February 26-28, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. It took place at the Ateneo De Manila University. The theme of the conference was 'Prosperity, Poverty, and the Purpose of Business: Rediscovering Integral Human Development in the Catholic Tradition.' John's paper was entitled: 'Wealth of Persons: Towards a Recovery of the 'Personalist Principles' of Wealth Creation in the Free Economy.' There were over 280 participants at the conference with representatives from all over the world. On Saturday the group travelled to Gawad Kalinga's Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan. The project is called the 'Silicon Valley' for social entrepreneurship in the Philippines. John's paper will appear in peer reviewed American Journal.


RTE Service

On Sunday, February 22nd, RTE transmitted a Service of the Word from UCD. Co-ordinated by the Chaplaincy, the worship focussed on what Lent means for us.

Following the reading for the day, we reflected on God's covenant with the created world and his love for that world in sending Jesus Christ.

These are themes reflected in the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, the poet who was, for a short time, Professor of Greek at UCD.

 'As kingfishers catch fire dragonflies draw flame' (Hopkins)

Custodians of Creation - Interfaith event

D‌ate: Thursday 19 February 2015

Time: 4pm-5.30pm

Venue: St. Stephen's chaplaincy (between Eng building and 39A bus hub)

Theme: Custodians of Creation

Format: each faith represented at this event will be invited to cite a key text from their sacred books which addresses the theme of 'Custodians of Creation'. What do these selected texts say to us about our responsibility towards the created universe? What principles or guidelines do they offer to shape and inform our actions and behaviour? This brief presentation will be followed by a second round of free sharing around the topic. 

All are welcome. Light refreshments offered. 

Interfaith gathering - How to foster Unity in Diversity

H‌ow to foster Unity in Diversity? 

This was the theme of our Interfaith gathering at St. Stephen's chaplaincy, 4pm Thursday 29 January 2015. 

Recent events in Paris and resultant reverberations throughout the world highlight once again the need to continually strive for mutual understanding and respect and peaceful coexistence among all peoples. Our sharing centred on these questions: What inspiration can we draw from our respective faith traditions, or, if we have none, from shared human values, that will help us to look to the future with hope? What would motivate us to reach out to the other, to build bridges of friendship and communion, to welcome 'the stranger' as a brother? Participants went back to the sources - sacred texts and the deep resonances of conscience - to re-engage and reactivate our common deepest longings for a world of justice, love and peace. 

As always, we invited participants to share openly and freely their deeply-held beliefs and convictions and to listen, without debate or argument, with respect to the other. 

Light refreshments served. 


Prayer for Christian Unity

Special Food4Soul, Food4Body ecumenical gathering to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. 

Date: Wednesday 21 January 2015

Time:  - 6pm-6.30pm PRAYER.  6.30pm-8pm FOOD AND FELLOWSHIP

Venue: St. Stephen's chaplaincy.

Theme: The Well is Deep, celebrating Jesus' encounter across cultural, religious and political divides, with the Woman at the Well as related in John 4. This theme comes to us from the churches of Brazil where competition for the religious market has led to intolerance, factionalism and even violence within the Christian community. The Brazilian churches wish to promote respect for diversity and dialogue as a permanent path of reconciliation and peace in fidelity to the gospel. 

A group of about 30 students gathered to support this worthy cause and reflect also on divisions within our own communities - divisions which deface the full splendour of Christ's presence among us, causing scandal and diminishing the credibility of our witness to the joy of the gospel. We gathered to show that unity in prayer is possible and to pledge our support for the cause of Christian unity in general.