In the olden days, young men and women used to hear words of wisdom from the elderly at what is popularly referred to as “by the fireside”. At those places the history of the community and of the place was shared with the young so that they got to know their roots. In the same way, I, as a new and young missionary, who has recently arrived in Ireland from Ghana, have had the opportunity to come and sit at the feet of “elderly wise men” and to learn from them about being a religious missionary priest in the Society of the Divine Word.
Coming to the Irish/British Province of the Divine Word Missionaries has been a privilege for me as I have met confreres of different age groups. But what has been so fascinating for me has been the presence of the oldest confrere in the province. This veteran missionary, Norman Davitt SVD, who will be soon 95, arrived at the beginning of the activities of the Society in Ireland. Another important person in Donamon, from whom I have been able to tap wisdom, was Fr Michael Joyce SVD, aged 82. As the saying goes in my local language – and I translate it literally, “it is from a mature palm tree that one gets sweet wine”. We also say that “with old age comes wisdom”.
With regard to Fr Norman, with whom I used to go cycling, he is a great source of religious experience and has a good knowledge of the Irish Church. Most people would think that at his age, he, the “young man”, should be having plenty of rest, but instead he is all the time on the go! He is and continues to be a great encouragement to me as I start my missionary life here.
He continues to drive; he celebrates masses; he visits the sick and does as much as he can. His spiritual life is also very deep and so I can say that I have been blessed to be with such a great model.
Fr Michael Joyce SVD is still acting as a curate in a local parish. He is also very active in gardening which has always been his hobby but he also does it to raise funds for the missions. He celebrates two or three masses on a Sunday. He regularly cuts the grass around our house with a mower that I, as a young man, still fear to operate. He is also a living history book for me in this place as he can narrate the history of our Society so well. He retains a great memory for the dates and personalities of all who have passed this way.
I have enjoyed being with these “young men” who are living witnesses of the Faith and I can say that I have learnt a lot from them as a new missionary to Ireland. May God bless our Congregation and the IBP.
(Editor’s note: George is currently gaining pastoral experience in Portlaoise parish).
Fr George Adzato SVD