TO THE COMBONI MISSIONARIES:
My wife, Julie, and i took our eldest son to University on Saturday.
It was a big day for us.
However, I gave it little thought during the days and weeks leading up to it.
Today, the house is a little empty, and in some ways it feels as if i have experienced a bereavement.
My son has gone. He has left the security and love, that was, literally, on his very own doorstep, to continue his journey in the world, with all the happiness and sorrows and challenges that that may bring.
The day ended up being a difficult day. Julie and I were not prepared for the emotions and thoughts and the overwhelming feeling of love and pride that rushed through us as we said good bye to our son
Soon after that good bye I began to think about my goodbye to my parents and their good bye to me when I was taken to Mirfield, at the age of thirteen, to begin my own journey towards becoming a priest.
My parents, I suspect, must have had the same thoughts and feelings of love and pride for me leaving home as Julie and I did for my son on Saturday leaving his home and going to university.
I was thirteen. How could my mum and dad do it?
How could they “let go” and leave me when I was so young?
The answer, of course, is based around trust. My parents believed that God had called me. They
believed in the sanctity of the Holy Vocation to the Priesthood. “God chose you, you did not choose
My parents trusted the Catholic Church. They trusted the priests of the Catholic Church. My parents, more than any other priests, trusted the Comboni Priests at their Junior Seminary at Mirfield.
I am angry about that. I am angry that i still feel angry. And I am angry for my mum and dad.
If my parents were alive they would be more than angry about what happened to their son at the hands of their trusted Comboni priests of Mirfield.
After the last Mirfield reunion (which I did not attend) I telephoned, the Comboni Missionary, Father John Clarke. Because, Father Clarke had spent some time at the reunion talking with Comboni abuse survivors, i was interested to discuss the abuse at Mirfield with him. Father Clarke was, and may still be, the Comboni Safeguarding Coordinator. His response to my question was, in words similar to or the same as, can you put all this in the past now, and move on.
Why am I writing all this?
I am writing this because it is linked to my thoughts and feelings about my eldest son leaving home, and it is linked to the trust that is entwined within that.
Many children went to Mirfield on trust. Their families trusted the Comboni priests at Mirfield to protect their children and to keep them from all harm.
That trust was betrayed in the most awful and despicable way. And to this day the abuse at Mirfield has not been addressed. And to this day there is no guarantee that it will ever be addressed or that the abuse by Comboni priests will not happen again.
And so, no, I and many others cannot “put it all in the past and move on.”