The beautiful chapel which ought to provide Edmund Ignatius Rice with his final place of rest is one of the most serene locations in all of Waterford, overlooking vast swathes of the city.
Blessed Edmund, whose remains had been venerated in two other locations within the grounds of Mount Sion since his death in 1844, now lies encased in a tomb which bears his name in ancient Ogham.
The chapel, located alongside the International Heritage Centre which tells the story of the Christian Brothers and their founder, is a wonderful addition to the city’s list of landmarks. And the new man in charge is revelling in his new duties.
“There’s such a thing as taking is easy, isn’t there,” said Brother Pat Madigan, the Centre’s Chief Executive as we sat down for a lively chat that demands a second instalment next week.
A native of County Clare, Pat has been at the helm in Mount Sion for the past two months, but no stranger is he to these parts, having worked as a primary school teacher here between 1967 and 69.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d find myself here again,” said Pat, whose career has taken him to locations as diverse as Zambia, Papua New Guinea, The Gambia and Peru.
“I could never have imagined being head of Mount Sion; it’s as simple as that. I love Mount Sion and I love everything that this place stands for. I’ve been promoting Blessed Edmund Rice throughout the world all of my life.”
Pat continued: “When I was in Africa teaching the novices, I used to be telling the novices about their further studies which they’d conduct in Ireland; I’d ask them to track me down in Dublin and I’d bring them down to Mount Sion. Little did I think when making that request that I would now be the person welcoming them!”
With the Heritage Centre now established as a company and tourist site, Pat is following in the footsteps of Barry O’Brien and Andy Kuppe (from Melbourne) as CEO in Mount Sion.
“I was approached by the Congregational Leader of the Christian Brothers in Rome because it is an appointment by the Congregational Leader in conjunction with his counterpart in Presentation Brothers, who jointly run this centre.
“The two Leaders nominated me and asked me if they could put my name forward for the process of selection of the CEO, which I was happy to let them do.
“Now this was the first time I’d ever had to prepare a CV and I then had to sit for an interview for an hour and a half, again the first time I’d ever done so. But I have to say that I didn’t find the interview or its length too difficult because I am so full of this place.”
Brother Pat, a former Secondary Principal at both Nenagh and Clonmel CBS also identified the main challenge he faces in his new brief.
“We have to ensure that we promote the whole area of hospitality, to promote Mount Sion as a place of pilgrimage, a place of prayer and a place of welcome, time and reflection, time out from the fast lane. So I think it’s a great challenge to sell that idea.
“But of course it’s not just down to me: it’s a whole movement of people and it just happened for the past year that I happened to be one of a group of four doing this work in Dublin for all Europe.
“We call ourselves ‘The Hub’, where we have two lay women, both married, one married man and myself promoting (the Christian Brothers) at European level.
“Now it’s ideal that I can host it all here because this is the place where it should be, so it all fits into place and nothing happens by chance. I honestly believe that providence has me here…I’ve felt a real sense of coming home since my return to Mount Sion.”
Next week: Pat’s definition of a Munsterman, his thoughts on a Papal visit and a request to his Mount Sion classes of 67, 68 and 69!