Brother Pat Madigan is a good talker. It goes with the territory. As a Christian Brother who has spread the word first professed by Blessed Edmund Rice, eloquence befits a man who has travelled the world, transmitting his order’s message.
It’s clearly a role he was set out for, clearly a vocation to whose call he answered without hesitation and led to a religious life he has completely embraced and relished.
“I had a dream the night before I was officially asked about the role here in Mount Sion,” said the CEO of the Edmund Rice Heritage Centre.
“In it, I met a very poor person and I am certain that it was Edmund Rice calling me back to Waterford. That’s just a fact.
“I’ve felt such a sense of coming home and I’ve been given such a fantastic welcome from both the primary and secondary schools, both staffs and people from across Waterford.”
Returning to where he taught some four decades ago has also prompted a trip down memory lane and a wish to discuss old times.
“All the way up along to Gracedieu and up to Walsh Park looks pretty much the same as it did back in my days teaching here – apart from the new church here and what’s been done to the barracks across the road, there’s scarcely any difference, in fact,” he said.
“I’d be delighted to meet my pupils of Fourth Class Mount Sion in 1967/68 and 1968/69 – I’d love if they came in to see me.
“I have photographs of those classes which I might put into the paper once I have myself organised and who knows, it might trigger off a few memories and lead to a few visits from my old pupils. That would be tremendous.”
Our conversation drifted to more serious issues, namely unemployment and the individual crisis that such a situation can catalyse. In many cases, a long abandoned faith is re-embraced when people find themselves in times of trouble.
“Returning to the faith is not only cyclical, it’s also developmental,” he said. “I’ve seen an enormous change in spirituality and religion since I was younger, from the time I was teaching in Mount Sion…
“But at the core of it all, ordinary prayer, Mass and the Sacraments remain the key components.
“And I’d love to see Mount Sion becoming integrated into the parish of Ballybricken, the parishes of the city, this diocese, beyond into Ferns and Ossory and then the whole country. It’s all part of a bigger picture.”
nd what are his views on the impressive Heritage Centre and chapel that has welcomed visitors and fellow Christian Brothers from across the globe?
“Unbelievably impressed,” he said. “The chapel is an oasis for rest and beauty; it’s one of the most beautiful chapels I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
“Its clear windows allow us to look out to the city, the world and the bigger universe and we see what it is saying to us, the same as it did for Edmund Rice in 1802 when he saw the poor of Waterford.
“Of course, we’re letting the world outside look in and speak to us – it’s a two-way process, we speak to and we listen to people and the world. And that is vital.”
Having taught in North and South Tipperary (Nenagh, Templemore and Clonmel) as well as Waterford, the Clareman is truly a provincial citizen.
“Tipperary is my adopted county, I absolutely love it. But it’s lovely to be now in Waterford so I think of myself more as a Munster man; I can identify with all the matches and the people of the communities I’ve worked in.
Many homeplaces
“I have many places I can call home, even Lusaka in Zambia, which captured my heart during my four years there as a director of novices and training Christian Brothers. I count myself fortunate to be so blessed in that respect.”
Talk is rife of a Papal visit to Ireland, something Brother Pat would love to see materialising.
“I would be delighted to see the Holy Father come to Ireland,” he opined.
“Pope Benedict’s first encyclical is ‘God is Love’ and he has written the most beautiful book on that and for me and it is such a wonderful and powerful message. And should Pope Benedict comes back and says that in our country, he really would be moving us forward.”
The Second Vatican Council, the role of the laity, his African experiences and his love of hurling were just a few of the other issues touched upon during a fascinating chat with Brother Pat Madigan.
Make no mistake: Edmund Rice’s most famous house is in the capable hands of a sincere, welcoming gentleman, whom many in Waterford are thrilled to have among them once more. Fáilte ar ais, a Phádraig!