Belfast Telegraph

Popular and courageous, Fr D'Arcy is shining example of faith in practice

By Alf McCreary

Father Brian D'Arcy is one of my favourite broadcasters and a cleric whom I respect for his humanity, insight and courage.

This week he conducted the Sunday morning service on Radio Ulster from St Gabriel's Retreat The Graan in Enniskillen, and it was a memorable programme.

He was joined live by his old friend Daniel O'Donnell who sang hymns, and this reminded me of the day when I stood on a windy Donegal hillside to report for this newspaper on the wedding service for Daniel and Majella, which was conducted by Fr D'Arcy.

The Sunday broadcast had an unusual format, in that it was virtually an autobiography by Fr D'Arcy who reflected on his long and rich career.

He talked about the early days when as a young priest he visited ballrooms to meet young people, and earned the title the 'Showbusiness Priest'.

On these visits he discovered that he had an important pastoral role, and on Sunday's programme he revealed that he had often found more of a pastoral role in the corner of a ballroom than in a church confessional.

Brian D'Arcy rubbed shoulders with all the top people in showbusiness and he became a close friend of the late Terry Wogan.

During his BBC Radio 2 broadcasts with Wogan he usually gave a deeply spiritual 'Thought for the Day' as well.

Fr D'Arcy has been a regular broadcaster with the BBC and has presented a good mainstream music programme on Radio Ulster, just after the Sunday morning service.

In fact, he could well have made a full-time career as a broadcaster, because of his professionalism in front of a microphone.

He has also appeared frequently on RTE, and many people will remember his dramatic and courageous confrontation with Cardinal Daly on The Late, Late Show about the extensive clerical child abuse in the Catholic Church.

He said later on that he told Daly in private about some of the details of this scandal, and that the Cardinal was truly shocked. I'm sure that he really was shocked.

On Sunday's programme Fr D'Arcy said that he had undergone great heart-searching about whether or not to leave the Catholic Church, but he felt that he had to honour his vocation to God, and stay on. Many people are glad he did so, and as an independent-minded priest he constantly and openly criticised what he saw as the failings of his Church. At one point a higher authority in Rome wanted to take a tighter grip on his writings, but he resisted this, and his parishioners and his Order backed him to the hilt.

Brian is from the Enniskillen area and he was deeply affected by the Remembrance Day bomb at the cenotaph in 1987. He was greatly impressed by the Christian response of Senator Gordon Wilson, who lost his daughter in the bomb and who said afterwards that he "bore no ill-will" to her murderers.

That is still one of the noblest moments of our Troubles, and I was glad that Fr D'Arcy took time on his short Sunday broadcast to once again pay tribute to Gordon who was a hero, though he has been sadly and undeservedly left in the background while the busy world moves on.

Fr D'Arcy is a friendly and popular man, but behind the ebullient front I suspect that he is lonely - as indeed many priests are. Brian has obeyed the demanding Catholic requirement for priestly celibacy, but he has said more than once that he would like to have been married with a family. One hopes that his campaign to have this unnatural man-made vow lifted will someday bear fruit.

Brian D'Arcy is suffering from a taxing illness, and his Sunday programme ended with his favourite prayer from Thomas Merton for what he called "his time of uncertainty".

It sounded almost valedictory but I pray not, and with many thousands of others I hope that Brian will continue on his Godly and priestly path for a long time to come. He is a credit to himself, to his career, to his Church at its best, and above all to Christianity.

I salute him and thank him for the deeply spiritual messages from St Gabriel's last Sunday morning.

Belfast Telegraph


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