A Northern Ireland deacon is putting his love for music and ministry to great effect as he preaches the Faith through broadcasts on social media.
Deacon Brendan Dowd, one of nine permanent deacons in the diocese of Down and Connor, has been using his Facebook page and YouTube channel to spread the Gospel during the coronavirus.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, the “working man” from north Belfast talks about how religion unites all his passions.
“I’m essentially a nobody trying to do something,” Brendan jokes about himself.
“I have found since I was ordained a deacon in October 2018 it to be such a privilege and it’s a wonderful way to be with people.
“I work together alongside my wife (Pauline), I preach at weekends in Holy Family, my parish, and then I work in ministry.
He adds: “Ministry is a big part of my life, Faith is a key aspect for me and I also love being with people.
“I find it a privilege that people allow you into a sacred place in their life to preach and share the Faith with them.”
Brendan reveals how one self-isolating priest from Co. Galway, who broadcasts daily Mass from his home despite being diagnosed with a treatable leukemia condition, inspired him.
“My inspiration came from Fr Des Forde of Lahinch in Co. Clare, who does Mass everyday via social media and that gave me the inspiration to do music and prayer and take it from there.”
“Being involved in music and ministry, gives me the opportunity to express my Faith and practice it through a means where the Lord is calling me.”
On being asked if his Faith has been enriched by his virtual and online experiences, Dowd replies: “That’s a very easy question to answer. Yes.
“Prayer is what is bringing and keeping us together because we are separated due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Despite much of the sacramental life of the Church being unavailable or dramatically changed, he says “we are working outside our church buildings to share our Faith through technology”.
He adds: “I am enriched by online conversations with people from around the world that I never knew before.
“It is wonderful, incredibly enriching and is a small example of people coming together, who want to share their Faith regardless of their geographical location.”
In addition to music and ministry, Brendan is also a teacher in Religious Education (RE) at St Malachy’s College.
The St Mary’s University College Belfast graduate, who studied M.Ed Religious Education at Queen’s University Belfast, says his Faith journey is “ongoing” and a “joy” to share with others.
“Like everybody else, my journey of Faith is an on-going one and it has been a privilege.
“I have been an RE teacher for 32 years now and it’s been a joy to share the Faith with students.”
Sadly the school was hit with a tragic loss of life recently, which Brendan feels has brought attention to the “harsh reality” of coping during the crisis.
“One of our students, at just 15 years of age, tragically took their own life recently,” he says. “The funeral was the other day and we couldn’t go or attend it.
“This tragedy brought home the harsh reality that we can’t be physically together or there for each other when mental health issues such as exam pressure, isolation or loneliness are being felt by the person.
He continues: “The school and I are in contact with students on a daily basis, but it’s tough that none of us can be physically there to help them.
“We are reaching out by streaming religious services online from our chapel, so that students can still be a part of the prayer and service during this difficult time.
“We are doing the best we can with what we have through technology and social media; we are encouraging them to talk to their family, friends and teachers as well as showing them that we are listening and there for them.
“We are trying to help young people by keeping them connected to prayer and Faith in desolate times.”