This has been a busy year for Fr Ger Jones of Ennis parish. Firstly, he celebrated 10 years as a priest this and now, following the elevation of Fr Ger Nash to be Bishop of Ferns, Fr Jones is stepping up to fill his shoes as diocesan secretary for Killaloe.
“Fr Ger Nash did a fantastic job, he’s a great loss to us – he’s a great benefit to the diocese of Ferns, but we’ll certainly miss him here,” Fr Jones says, adding that he’s looking forward to the challenges and experiences the new role holds. “When you’re asked to do something, you give it a go and you give it your best shot.
For him, the idea of the priesthood was always in the back of his mind”
“I’m still in the parish as well, I’m between two stools,” he continues. “I’m in Ennis, in the Abbey pastoral area, but also working in the diocesan office. I’m really at the early stages of that, so I’m only learning the ropes, you’ll have to call me back in a year to ask what I think of it!”
Fr Jones, a native Co. Clare, comes from a family whose faith background was strong, he says. Both his parents were daily Massgoers, even when they were working. For him, the idea of the priesthood was always in the back of his mind.
“I would have considered it growing up and that, when I was in secondary school and that kind of thing,” Fr Jones says. “But I didn’t go for it when I did the Leaving Cert, I went and studied in the University of Limerick. But it was still there in the back of my head all the time.
“When I finished my degree in Limerick, I then went for the diocese. I suppose the idea of priesthood, to be there and offer the sacraments, attracted me to it. I was aware there was a need for it. Thinking about it now, it’s 17 years ago that I went in to Maynooth. At that time, we were aware of the need for priests and the shortage of priests. It’s much more acute now. I felt that I’d like to give it a go and see.”
Fr Jones spent seven years studying, spending three years in Maynooth and three in the Irish college in Rome. Both were rewarding environments, and he considers himself lucky to have had the experience of studying in both. In Rome, he says he gained an especial appreciation for the universal nature of the Church.
“I got to meet in Rome a lot of people from other places,” Fr Jones tells me. “You’re not just meeting Italians, you’re meeting Americans and Australians and Iraqis, it gave me a much better sense of the universal Church. The struggles and the difficulties that we’re having in Ireland are different from the struggles and the difficulties that people in other countries are having, countries with lots of vocations but no money to build seminaries, or to look after the people who are going forward.
“Then there are people like the Iraqis who are being driven out – the Iraqi Christian population has been decimated since the Iraq war, basically since I went to Maynooth. A lot of them have gone to Australia and to different parts of the world. It was an extraordinary grace to meet people like that and to get a sense of the universal Church.
“To understand what other people are going through in different parts of the world, places where the Church is booming, places where the Church is undergoing physical persecution, I got a much better sense of that. It was a great experience in that sense, seeing the global Church in Rome.
“But I made lots of friends in Maynooth too and people I’d still be in touch with. There aren’t that many priests under whatever age, so a lot of us would know each other. I would have positive things to say about both places.”
Having spent 10 years working in parishes, Fr Jones is well aware of the privilege and the honour that comes from serving the Faithful.
“I suppose being there for people [is one of my favourite experiences],” Fr Jones begins. “As I say, people who are faithful appreciate your presence. Being there and accompanying people who are sick, accompanying people to their journey in the next world is a great privilege and a great honour.
Fr Jones will continue to work in the Abbey pastoral area, while also working in the diocesan office”
“The families of those people are deeply appreciative. Celebrating the funeral Masses, it’s a wonderful connection. People of faith appreciate it, but people who aren’t Massgoers, when a funeral comes around and when a bereavement comes around, it’s a chance to reconnect with their faith and to pose the questions about life and eternal life and that kind of things.
“That’s a great privilege – I wouldn’t call it a favourite thing, but it’s a really important thing that we do.”
Fr Jones will continue to work in the Abbey pastoral area, while also working in the diocesan office. He says the people in the parishes are always supportive and positive of the work he and other priests do.
“It’s been a pleasure to work in what we’d call town parishes in our diocese. There’s been a great deal of support and very, very good people I would have met. People who would be involved in the parish, who are faithful people, I would describe them as good people and good people to know.”