Last week, Fr. Bernard McDermott celebrated being a priest for a staggering 47 years! He looks back at his many decades of service and his commitment to the Missionary society of St. Columban, explaining ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way!’

I can hardly believe that so many years have passed since my decision in 1969 to abandon my career as a personal tax advisor with the oil company BP to seek a new direction in life and to become a missionary priest.

47 years on and I am still here and I have to thank Almighty God for that. There have been times when I have felt disillusioned with the way the Church has acted and spoken on various issues affecting the lives and faith of its subjects and the message it has portrayed to the wider world. I have to say too, that on some occasions, I have felt angry and ashamed at the hypocrisy of the Church on issues such as sexuality, human rights and the role of women in the Church.

It isn’t all negative though of course, and the election of Pope Francis was an important highlight in my ministry. He has become a much needed breath of fresh air both in his words and example. The opposition he has received inside the Church from his so-called loyal cardinals has been disgraceful in my opinion, but I admire his vision and courage to carry on despite the criticism.

Not having a family of my own has to be the biggest sacrifice of becoming a priest. I love children and relate easily to them, or so I have been told! Although not having a wife and children of my own has been painful, the freedom this has brought me has meant I could accept appointments to countries like the Philippines and Taiwan. My experience on mission in these countries has been a positive and given me man, many happy and fulfilling moments.

Fortunately I am content with my life as a missionary priest which is just as well, since at the age of 77 years it isn’t really the time to start considering any other form of life commitment! I don’t regret giving up the ‘rat race’ of a career in secular life. I am grateful for the respect and freedom that membership to the Missionary Society of St. Columban has afforded me since I was accepted as a candidate for ordination in 1969.

I am especially grateful to Fr. Ned, who, over the past number of years has been a supportive and understanding friend and landlord. Most of all I am grateful to the many people who have loved and influenced me over the years both here in Britain, in my ministry in Birmingham as well as in the places overseas where I have served as a priest. I am not the judge of what I have given over the past 47 years but I am certain that I have received ten times more than I have given.

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Columban missionary priests integrate ordained ministry within their Christian community with reaching out across boundaries of culture and faith to the poor and the marginalised.

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