“Feed my Sheep”: Ministry with the Darndale Belcamp Parish

“Lord, you know everything. You know I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my lamb.”

In my experience of Youth and Pastoral ministry, emphasis is on the dignity, protection and welcome of everyone. In short, meeting each one where they are. When I care for the people I am with, be it in the parish community, or journeying with the Travelling community, I do so for the love of Christ, inspired by the John’s Gospel (21:15-17).

The parish community of Darndale, a suburban parish of the Archdiocese of Dublin since 1972 has had its share of difficulties. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate accepted responsibility for the parish from the outset and continue at the helm. It faces many social ills. For example, broken families, low incomes and drug use are also a feature of ordinary life, ruining many young people and their families, as well as the wider community. High rate of unemployment, large numbers of single parent families and one in four homes with a drug addict or recovering addict, teenage pregnancies and early school dropouts are all part and parcel of life and experience in Darndale. Children and young people are going through an increasingly serious mental health crisis. The good news is that, yet, God is present. Some good people believe in God’s love for them, though it’s challenging to practice faith. I try to bear witness to this through my presence.

In my ministry within the church and the wider parish community, I try to provide support, assistance, spiritual guidance and encouragement to many people who wanted to give up on life and God. I have been blessed with a wide horizon of mission: preparing parish liturgies and making them relevant and meaningful; helping bereaved families through the grieving process; preparing children for First Holy Communion and Confirmation, visiting families and camps belonging to the Traveller community. Though challenging most people are welcoming and appreciative of a religious person visiting their homes and praying with them. The synodal process has helped me to be open to listening and to engage with people in the realities of their lives.

I’m happy to share with you an experience I had just before Christmas in Darndale. On my way home, after communion classes, I saw three boys assaulting and beating a girl and a boy in the street. The girl, thrown to the ground and beaten severely; The boy, struck with an iron bar. Both of them were bleeding but no one helped. I summoned up all my courage despite the shock and fear, and begged the boys: ‘Please, leave them alone, you’ve done enough’.  To my surprise, they ceased their attack, left the scene and fled. The ambulance was called and attended to the injured. I later learned that the group was involved in drugs. The worst thing about this situation is the unwillingness to help. We all need the help and support of others at different times in our lives, and we must be ready to do the same for others as Jesus did in His lifetime.

How can I keep the flame of faith alive and build hope, in myself and in others?   Pope Francis encourages us to help others to encounter and experience God as a way of discovering our own vocation, and as a way of making the apostolate specific to all the baptised. Being open to the work of the Holy Spirit: “who constantly breathes new life into our world, into our hearts, into our families, into our homes and parishes…How much our world needs this encouragement that is God’s gift and promise!”

Sr. Lumay Thomas, fmm

Donaghmede community, Ireland