THE new man at The Graan, Fr Charles Cross says he is looking forward to building on the foundations set by Fr Brian D’Arcy as he begins his three year tenure in Enniskillen.
He admitted that he still hasn’t got his feet under the table just yet when he sat down with the Herald this week.
Born and bred in Ardglass, Co. Down, the 66-year-old was most recently based at Holy Cross Parish in Ardoyne, Belfast. He took over the reins at St Gabriel’s Retreat in early September when Fr Brian moved to Crossgar, Co Down.
“I was born and reared in the country within a very Catholic home and was always aware that I wanted to do something special for God,” he said.
It was a brief stint in hospital work that led to Fr Charles’ ultimate calling to become a Passionist priest:
“At 12 I headed off to boarding school with the Brothers of Saint John of God in Bray. I later worked with special needs children in Dundalk. Returning home some years later, I worked on the reception desk at Downpatrick Hospital but I was still thinking of becoming a priest so I joined the Passionists in 1970.”
That same year he briefly made The Graan his home for the first time before college at Mount Argus and the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy. At the time of his ordination Fr Charles made history as the first man to be ordained from his home parish in over 100 years.
Since then his focus has been on preaching and leading missions and retreats in Ireland, England and Scotland.
He is now back in Fermanagh as Superior of The Graan after a 20 year absence: “I was delighted to learn I was coming back as I know the score a wee bit and the gentle and lovely people here. However lots of people who I thought were still alive have sadly passed on. I’m still trying to get my feet under the table and it takes a while.”
Fr Charles is also fully aware of what he calls the “grief” surrounding the departure of Fr Brian from the Graan where he was stationed five times during his long career.
“People are missing the most popular priest in Ireland who was also a local boy. His footprint has been big here having built this house at the Graan and being the energy behind it. It was tough for him to move but being left here for so long wasn’t fair to him either because you get rooted. I’ve never had that because I was always a rolling stone.
“I can see why the people are grieving and people are asking me ‘how is poor wee Fr Brian’. Life goes on and priests get moved – it’s part of life when you sign up to the job. When a superior is moved, the community stays the same and the staff here at the Graan are certainly keeping me right.”
Fr Charles is also looking forward to working with clergy of other denominations to further build on the strong cross-community relationships already forged in Fermanagh.
Posted: 5:59 pm October 20, 2017