The parishioners of Dalkey gave a warm welcome to Moyross PP Tony O’Riordan SJ when he visited them in their church recently, along with the principal of the local primary school, Tiernan O’Mahony, and Paddy Cullen (pictured), who spoke at their mass. The parish of Dalkey has been working in partnership with the Corpus Christi parish in Moyross for over a year, supporting financially the work done with young people from the school and parish of Moyross.
Paddy Cullen witnessed that work first-hand, both in the school and the parish, when he stayed with Tony O’Riordan after being released from prison. He witnessed all the good work done with the young people of Moyross, particularly the work and educational schemes provided for them. When Fr Tony was invited back to the Dalkey parish mass this year, Paddy volunteered to speak to the congregation about his own life.
Paddy spoke from the heart about the violence he experienced at home in a small town in rural Ireland. He remembered how he thought school would be a welcome escape. It didn’t turn out like that. He was soon in trouble, and once he got a bad name he found himself getting the blame for many things which he hadn’t done. As a result he spent most of his young school days outside the principal’s office watching other kids go to class. In the playground he was segregated from the other children and sometimes made to stand on one leg.
Paddy was expelled from school at thirteen. A short time later he was doing drugs. From the age of sixteen until a few years ago (he’s now in his late twenties) he was in and out of prison for drug-related crime. “Some people say prison is their second home,” he said,”but for me it was my first home”.
In and out of prison he met with Peter McVerry SJ and Tony O’Riordan. Tony invited him to Moyross to help him get back into normal life. He told parishioners how one day he was in Tony’s house when Tiernan O’Mahony, the principal of the local school, knocked on the door looking for Tony. “He just wanted to come in to keep an eye on a couple of older lads who were messing around, and he was afraid they might start on his pupils coming out of school. I was stunned. I thought to myself, if only one person had cared for me like that when I was at school I would never have ended up the way I did.”
He also spoke of the many times he would meet with Tony after yet another stint in prison. But one day Fr Tony said something to him that touched him in a way he would never forget. “I don’t know what it is about you, Paddy,” he said, ‘but I will never give up hope on you.”
Paddy Cullen now works in Limerick and helps out in the school and parish. Fr Tony said his talk to the people of Dalkey was a real affirmation of the importance of their support and partnership with the people of Moyross.