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Hanging out with the homeless

Chris Brolly is a Jesuit novice on a 3-month placement in Dublin. Originally from Newcastle, England, 28 year-old Chris is of Irish Catholic heritage who worked in marginalised communities before joining the Jesuits. In this interview with Pat Coyle from Irish Jesuit Communications, he speaks about his reason for joining the Jesuits and he shares his experience of working with Peter McVerry SJ.

While working in a non-faith school in the UK, Chris remembers a key moment when a man from his young adult group made an observation. He pointed out, “So you’re teaching in a non-faith school for reasons of faith. That’s a very Jesuit thing to do!” Jesuits were unknown to Chris at that time so he researched them on the internet and was filled with admiration for key figures such as St. Ignatius, St Francis Xavier and, of more recent times, Walter Ciszek SJ. After some deliberation he ultimately felt joining the novitiate (the first stage of training) was the best choice for him.

His placement, or ‘long experiment’, is designed to test the authenticity of his vocation. While living in community at Gardiner Street Parish in Dublin, he leads weekly prayer sessions on Lectio Divina (sacred reading) with other parishioners, and he prays the Examen, an Ignatian prayer of reflection and gratitude, twice a day.

Chris shadows Peter McVerry SJ at his drop-in shelter for the homeless in Upper Sherrard Street, around the corner from Gardiner Street Church. He feels inspired by the Irish Jesuit who is well known for his social justice apostolate in the North Western European novitiate, based in Birmingham, UK. Chris says of his work with the homeless, “When you understand the mercy that’s involved in rehabilitation, and in forgiving and in moving forward, then it reveals totally new depths in your spiritual life”.

Regarding his free time, he enjoys running along the Royal Canal and getting to know Dublin’s culture, traditions, and people. He says, “I’ve loved being here among the working people of north Dublin, so overall it’s been a great confirming time for my vocation.”