Saturday, 27 May 2017

Confreres at Farnborough (May 2017)

Before I forget I would like to record the names of the confreres with whom I spent the last week making my retreat at St John Bosco House, Farnborough.  Most of those there were elderly Salesians and God alone knows the great things they've done in their long and fruitful life.  I feel greatly privileged to have met them and spent the past one week with them...
  • Fr Brendan McGuiness (I'm told he is a very good musician but suddenly a few years ago gave it up totally! There's the music block of the school named after him... presently he is the eldest of those present at Farnborough 89 years old... and he still drives!)
  • Fr Peter Burns (He is 88 or so.  Two months before his ordination he was asked by his provincial if he could go to Ecuador as a missionary. He agreed.  The Bishop of the place came to pick him up at the airport and on their way, Fr Peter was told that he'd be the headmaster of a school!  He knew not a single word of Spanish and he was to manage a whole school.   However, he soon learnt the most basic single words and managed.  He still remembers a sentence he learnt in full Spanish, that he says solved most of the problems with the children.  It meant, 'You are here to study. Your primary duty is to study.  That's what you should focus on.'  
  • Fr Peter Quinn (He has this unique style of asking you a number of questions.  He keeps asking, at his own slow pace, one question after another... Am told he was in Japan for four years teaching English.  He can also speak Spanish, I'm told). 
  • Fr Des O'Riodon (He is the rector, 3rd term!  I had a long chat with him one evening.  Or rather, he was talking and I was listening.  He shared of his great experience travelling from Bangalore to Trichy province and all that Fr Arul Maran does and did with his help.  His association with the 'Little way' that financially assists some projects in India and all that! )
  • Fr Dan Donahoe (He is our regular confessor here at Chertsey.  We invite him on days of our monthly recollection to assist us with our confessions.  Presently he is the vice-rector.  He and Br Joe Adams would not let any opportunity go by to pull each others legs!) 
  • Br Michael Delmer (He was the headteacher at Farnborough for many years. The central administrative building in the school is named after him.  He uses crutches to walk. But practically everyday after supper he takes a long walk outside the campus.  For the feastday meal of Mary help of Christians, he prepared an elegant menu card and a small greeting card for each one of the community members: each card had a different image of Mother Mary and the name of the person printed on it!) 
  • Fr Aidan Murray (He and I were the only ones who had come from outside the community to participate in the retreat. He is the parish priest at Glouchester and he and Fr Sean are great friends.  Every weekend Fr Sean drives up to his place and assists for Masses... that's almost 200 miles round trip!) 
  • Br Joe Adams (He is the manager of the house and practically runs the place.  More than his administrative skills, it is his relational skills that make him have an equation with all, no matter what the age, or the idiosyncrasy!  He was the one of the chief planners of that house for the elderly Salesians) 
  • Fr Andrew Ibrahim (He is on a sabbatical. He was the rector of Chertsey till last year.  Next year he is appointed as the head of RE at our school in Battersea.  He is partly of an Indian origin.  He is renown for his work for the street children work in Kolkata province. In fact he spent almost 6 months of this year in Kolkata.  Every year he takes a batch of students for an experience of the life in the street childrens' home in Kolkata) 
  • Fr Hugh Preston (He was our retreat preacher.  Every talk was prepared and printed, word for word.  But he never read it. He knew it all.  He could have very well taken this whole retreat very lightly, after all he was preaching to confreres, most of whom were the age of his father!  Moreover, for most of his talks, which were only two - one in the morning and the other was during the Mass - some of the elderly Salesians were sleeping!  But he did not mind it one bit.  He was thorough with his task.  He is the twin brother of Fr Francis Preston, one of the former provincials of this Province)

 There were a couple of others who did not join for the retreat but it was great meeting them too, mostly during meals.  Fr Pat Sherlock (the school chaplain and one who was the Province secretary for 10 years and has a knack for computers and database programming), Fr Ivor Netto (he was once the Chaplain of 5 colleges under the university of London) and Fr Jim Gallagher (he had a strong accent and others would pull his leg for it, but he was not one who would easily let the others have him!  He had a hip operation and is feeling much better).

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