By Rev. Dr. Keith McCrory
It has been a busy few weeks for the members of the Saint Patrick Foundation, with five events in Dublin, Maynooth and Derry from February 20 to March 17. Here the SPF Chairman, Dr Keith McCrory, tells us a little about SPF’s work and why these next 12 months will be exciting ones for those involved in this conciliation charity.
The Saint Patrick Foundation is a conciliation ministry based around the life and legacy of our patron saint. Our goal is to help reconnect Saint Patrick’s Day with the ancient story that gave it birth and, in doing so, to harness the celebration of our largest annual festival to make a contribution toward peace and reconciliation on our island.
March 17 is one of the biggest parties in the world’s annual calendar. Over 80 million people in more than 200 countries around the world participate in its annual pageant. Without question, it is a great day filled with ceol agus craic, with music and fun. And we should be rightly proud of that.
But we believe that this day could be so much more and has huge untapped potential. Patrick changed our nation because of his encounter with the love of God. It is the story of that love, and the one who gave it, that St Patrick’s Day should surely be known for.
At the moment, the celebration of our patron saint is mainly led by sweet and alcohol companies, by political groups hoping to get their convictions across, and by activists for one cause or another. This is all fine, but we believe that the celebrations of March 17 should primarily be led by those of us who are Christians and that St Patrick’s Day should focus on the things that Patrick was passionate about. We have been deeply encouraged to see what happens when Christians come together and seek to serve their communities.
The Saint Patrick Foundation works at three basic levels: Community, Leadership, and Schools.
At a community level, firstly, we provide conciliation services to voluntary organisations, individuals, families and churches, helping them to work through difficulties that arise.
Secondly, we host Saint Patrick Breakfasts on the morning of March 17. These breakfasts are designed to create cross-community and cross-cultural contexts in which people from all traditions and backgrounds can meet, enjoy one another’s company and be inspired by the story of Patrick. So far, these have been held in Maynooth and Lucan, and this year for the first time in the city of Derry.
At a leadership level, we run training events in the areas of conflict and team building (our Leading through Conflict Seminar and Building Healthy Teams seminars).
We are just beginning to develop our schools work, which centres around the ‘Conflict Course’ - a seven-week introduction to conflict and how to approach it with health and effectiveness. We hope that the Conflict Course will run in schools from January to March.
In early November this year, we hope to formally launch the SPF Conciliation Service around the country (in partnership with the Irish Bible Institute and Evangelical Alliance of Ireland) and begin the process of developing trained conciliators who can provide this service in their local areas. These conciliators will attend our Leading through Conflict Seminar (LTC1), and then proceed to training in the formal conciliation process (LTC2). They will then assist in actual conciliation processes and, finally, will be confirmed as accredited conciliators.
Next March, we are also hoping to run the pilot for our Dublin Saint Patrick Breakfast and Saint Patrick Concert and are actively seeking the funding to enable these events to get started. Eventually, our hope is to see a large Saint Patrick Breakfast take place in Dublin one year, and in Belfast the next. We feel that such an event would make a great statement about what we want St Patrick’s Day to be about and would, in itself, be a significant contribution to peace.
So why not join us? Whether you would like to come to one of our seminars, help to start SPF events in your area, support us financially or simply to pray for us, we would be delighted to meet up. You can find most of the information you need on our website: www.saintpatrickfoundation.org or please feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And most of all, please pray for us as we meet with broken people and communities and seek to help them find healing and restoration through the one who lifted Patrick from the mire and set him firmly on top of the wall.
Rev. Dr. Keith McCrory is Chairman of the Saint Patrick Foundation and the pastor of Maynooth Community Church.