What makes St Patrick’s so special
In 1987, Matthew Arnold stepped into a service at Saint Patrick Catholic Church, not sure what to expect.
He was new to the island, having moved from the UK with his wife and two children for a short-term post at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital’s Department of Anaesthesia.
The kindness he experienced — at the Smith’s church, at work and at his daughters’ school — is why he’s still here 32 years later.
“The outstanding first memory I have at St Patrick’s is the welcome that I received from the pastor and the people of the church in 1987,” he recalled. “I had two young children, one in arms, and people came up and spoke to us soon after we arrived. These weren’t just the official greeters, but regular parishioners who wanted to genuinely get to know us.
“At the end of the service, there was also an announcement saying if anyone needed a ride home they could come to the front. A lady at the church drove us home that day and even offered to pick us up the next week because at the time we didn’t have a car and we couldn’t fit us all — two children, my wife and I — on the bike.
“That kind of thing doesn’t always happen, but at St Patrick’s it does.”
Now retired and a church deacon, Mr Arnold will be at Saint Patrick this evening for a special mass and refreshments in celebration of a milestone.
“We are excited to celebrate St Patrick’s 50th anniversary and to honour the wonderful community that exists here,” he said. “The generosity of the people here, not only financially, is unparalleled and for us who were expats at the time of joining it was like finding a family. In addition to lifts to church, people invited us out for dinner and even gave us gifts for the kids on special occasions. That was a unique experience for us.
“Also, the spiritual strength of St Patrick’s is a wonderful thing to behold, to live through and be a part of it. You will find a group of people here praying every morning, which is a beautiful sight to see.”
Born in Zimbabwe, Mr Arnold was raised in a Catholic family.
Two of his uncles were priests; as far back as he can remember his family has always been actively involved with the church.
“When I heard there was a Catholic church in Bermuda called St Patrick’s. I thought that would be a good place to start my search for a new church home, because that’s the name of my father, Patrick,” he said. “Since then I’ve found so much encouragement and support from the community here. They saw in me leadership capabilities and would invite me to take on various roles in the church.”
Some of the people he fondly remembers are Beatrice Faries, who became a second mother to him, as well as the late Fred and Mary-Jane Coelho.
Ten years ago, Mr Arnold was invited by Bishop Robert Kurtz, to take part in the diaconate programme and officially become a deacon.
“There was a selection process and the clergy, as well as church members, were asked to put names forward for the programme,” he said.
“My name was put forth by several people and there was a further selection process before I was admitted into the programme.
“I was still working full-time at the hospital, but did the classes in the evening and on weekends. We were trained in liturgy and preaching and the whole process took about five or six years to complete.”
He was ordained on January 30, 2016. His responsibilities include some preaching, as well as performing baptisms and weddings.
“Predominantly my role is to be of service to the parishioners,” he said. “I’m here to listen and provide spiritual guidance whenever they need support. This post has not only deepened my relationship with God, but developed in me a greater understanding of what others live with and go through — the highs and lows of their lives. It has given me a greater appreciation of the gifts that I have — a job, a roof over my head and family to call my own.”
•Saint Patrick Catholic Church will celebrate its 50th anniversary at 5.45pm tonight. For more information: 236-9866, firstname.lastname@example.org
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