Thursday 2nd September, 2004
President of Ireland, Mrs Mary McAleese
Dia dhíbh a cháirde. Is breá liom bheith anseo i bhúr measc inniu ag an
ócaíd speisialta seo, agus ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl díbh as
an chuireadh agus as fáilte fíorchaoin.
Good morning and welcome to the Eighth Consultation of the European Network of Health Care Chaplaincy. I have Kathleen O’Connor to thank for the privilege of being with you to open this gathering of men and women whose unique vocation takes them deeply and often precipitately into the lives and the suffering of complete strangers. You are a remarkable and crucial part of the heath care team but the one who arrives without medicine or machines, the one who addresses not the illness itself but the fears, the anxieties, the doubts, the anger, the cynicism, the distress, the multiplicity of concerns that illness provokes that no drug or surgery has an answer for.
The existential and spiritual dimension of suffering, illness and death is as real as the physical pain. It creates a very testing and challenging set of needs and you are the people who have responded to that challenge. Your skills offer the chance for peace of mind, for healing of a different sort, for empathy and company on the lonely journey that illness can be. You can nudge people to courage, support their family and friends when their spirits wane or come close to wearing out. You bring a holistic dimension to medical training, broadening the spectrum of experience and insight of medical professionals. That is why you are such an important part of the health-care teams serving patients.
As children we were always taught that one of the great corporal works of mercy was visiting the sick. Your vocation is that work of mercy and through your distilled professional experience and wisdom you have brought new levels of skill and effectiveness to health care chaplaincy.
You understand more than most that imperative of showing to every person an unconditional life-affirming respect for their dignity and worth as human beings. In your daily work you do much to assert and reveal the capacity we have for compassion and for care, daily witnesses to the reality that we are not indifferent to the suffering of others and that their pain is our concern no matter who or what they are.
The skill of consoling calls for very special gifts and we are grateful that you have them and that you choose to use them in the way that you do. I applaud the ecumenical spirit in which you meet together. Your commitment to providing services of divine worship according to one’s traditions in a non-intrusive, non-invasive, way is admirable and rooted in that utter respect for the person at the centre of the chaplaincy service, the questioning, uncertain suffering human being. Everyone’s needs are different, and, more to the point, people’s beliefs can be very different. I am reminded of the words of Ulster poet John Hewett, who said:
For now I scorn no man’s or child’s belief
in any symbol that may succour grief
if we remember whence life first arose
and how within us yet that river flows:
I hope that this 8th Consultation of the European Network of Health Care
Chaplaincy will be a great success and a satisfying experience for all who
attend. I hope that here you will share the great resource that is your
individual experience, that you will learn from each other and teach each
other and that you will feel renewed and re-energised in what is a very
tough, demanding and draining profession. Ultimately no one has to let you
share their grief, their brokenness and it is a huge privilege to be invited
into such a profoundly difficult part of human life. That privilege brings
its rewards but also its tests its difficulties. Here in Dublin may you be
refilled, refuelled for the journey ahead. We have a saying here – two
shortens the journey and that is what you each do.
I wish you well in your deliberations and every success in your wonderful work in the cause of others.
Go n-eirí go geal libh. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
Participants are invited to include with their registration form a short statement telling us about yourself and your current role. Also include an account of chaplaincy in your country. This will give each participant an awareness of the experience each person brings to the Consultation as well sharing the structure and development of chaplaincy in each European country. This will greatly facilitate our sharing at the opening session of our Consultation.
Please also send this description to firstname.lastname@example.org
so that the description can be put on the "Countries Page" of the Website.
Residential accommodation will be available from the afternoon of Wednesday, 1st September 2004 until Sunday 5th September (after breakfast) at All Hallows College (Purcell House), Grace Park Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9. Telephone: 353-1-8373745. All sessions of the Consultation and meals will be in All Hallows College, unless otherwise indicated on the programme. Light refreshments only will be available from 6 p.m. on 1 September.
If you wish to have accommodation in Dublin before 1st September or after the Consultation ends on September 5th 2004 for an additional cost, please include exact details on the registration form and we shall endeavour to assist you.
Dublin Airport is approximately 15-20 minutes drive from All Hallows College. There is a Taxi service available at the Airport. An Airport Bus destined for the City Centre passes by near the College. You need to ask the driver to let you out at the Cat & Cage Pub. Walk up the road towards the rear of the Pub to a “T” junction (Grace Park Road), turn left and All Hallows College is on your left. Inside the gate, keep left and Purcell House is the last building on your right.
Please complete your arrival details on the registration form.
Cost: €425 is inclusive of four nights’ accommodation, all meals and excursions.
Banking information for making payments by transfer:
A/C Name: Catholic Healthcare Commission No.2 A/C
A/C No. : 91524386 IBAN No. : IE24 BOFI 9005 1991 5243 86 SWIFT/BIC No. BOFIIE2D
Participants represent a church or organisation involved in Health Care Chaplaincy in Europe.
Scholarships may be available in special circumstances for a maximum of €300.00. If, with this scholarship, you still have difficulty meeting the cost please let us know as soon as possible and the Committee will evaluate your situation. Please indicate your request on the registration form.
If you or your organisation wish to sponsor a participant, who cannot afford to attend, could you add this amount to your own Consultation and Membership fees if you have not already sent it in response to Fr. Stavros' plea!
[Participants should bring a small flag or emblem from their country.]