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Youth ministry in Belfast

Terry Howard SJ speaks to Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications about setting up a young adult ministry in Belfast in collaboration with the Diocese of Down and Connor. He is currently full-time chaplain at Ulster University and has previously worked with Slí Eile Young Adult Ministry in Dublin. This ministry will be the first of its kind since the Jesuits came to Belfast thirty years ago.

Speaking about the initiative that is planned for September 2019, Terry says: “The Diocese have invited the Jesuits because of their experience of Ignatian spirituality as part of the office of Living Church in the Diocese, which Alan McGuckian SJ, now Bishop of Raphoe, was instrumental in training people for. The Diocese sees the value of Ignatian spirituality, and they want it to be available to young adults”.

The Jesuits have undergone a discernment process in response to the invitation of the Diocese. Terry says, “I was very aware at the very start of this that if we’re going to do this that we have to be doing it in response to the Spirit of God”. Establishing lasting relationships and giving people tools for the rest of their lives, e.g., through Ignatian spirituality are far more important to the Jesuit community than quick results and output.

The Jesuits have found an office in a new campus of Ulster University in the midst of a business district and gay district. They are hoping to be set up and ready for the middle of September when the university will be up and running again. Among the services provided will be spiritual guidance that focuses on a direct relationship with God for each person and on their quest for meaning. This ministry is not just for university students but for the young adults of Belfast.

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