While we have the Mission Office to keep in touch with our men in Africa and Hong Kong, those closer to home can easily be forgotten. There are four Irish Jesuits working in Britain: Kieran Barry-Ryan, Jim Hayes, Jack Donovan and Pat Riordan. Kieran, now 79 and enjoying rude health and energy, is finishing a long stint on the marriage and family ministry in Southwark diocese. He had worked in Dublin with Bill White on Marriage Encounter, in the days when it was flourishing. Bill died prematurely, and divisions in Marriage Encounter in USA sapped its effectiveness.
About fifteen years ago Kieran, while remaining a member of the Gardiner Street community, went to work in Southwark. The absence of preparation for the sacrament of marriage hit him hard. You needed to jump more hurdles and spend more time getting a driving license than getting married for life. So together with Archbishop Michael Byrne and a convert Jewess called Cheryl, he set up pre-marriage courses, writing the material for them, and training those who would give them. The most challenging part was encouraging the trainers to reflect and draw on their own experience of faith and prayer. There was a strong gravitation to focus simply on human development, and to move away from the religious heart of the sacrament.
Kieran has long been our marriage man in the London area. It was a blessing to be able to refer couples and families to him for help, knowing that they would meet wise and kindly support. His courses are still going strong, and he is ready to move on to other work either in Britain or in Ireland.