A champion of ecumenism, a prison chaplain and singing trio ‘The Priests’ are amongst those to be honoured by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in her traditional new year list of awards.
Tyrone-based cleric Fr Kevin Mullan is to be awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for what Buckingham Palace describes as “services to inter-Church collaboration and community relations” in the North.
Fr Mullan has been a long-time champion of better relations between different Christian traditions in Ireland and came to international prominent for his ministry following the 1998 bombing in Omagh which saw 31 people lose their lives, including unborn twins.
Also honoured are members of ‘The Priests’ Fr Eugene O’Hagan, Fr David Delargy and Fr Martin O’Hagan, who are recognised as Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Congratulating the trio, Bishop of Down and Connor Dr Noel Treanor said: “these three priests have been given a platform to reach out to and inspire diverse audiences and communities across the globe, from all faiths and traditions, united in their common love of music.
“The honour that they have received pays particular tribute to their generous charity work effected and realised through the ‘Priests Charitable Trust’ as they continue to reach out in support to those in need,” Dr Treanor said.
In a joint statement, the three clerics said: “our unexpected journey over the past 11 years has been an epic one and has brought us to places we could only ever have dreamed about.
“We would like to thank all those who have supported us in this journey, not least our families, fellow clergy, religious and lay faithful of the parishes in which we have served and continue to serve,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, a prison chaplain has paid tribute to his fellow clergy and others in the prison community after being recognised by Elizabeth II.
Fr Stephen McBrearty, who is lead Prison Chaplain for the Catholic Church, was speaking after becoming Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
“I am humbled and delighted to be the recipient of this award which recognises the work of the entire prison chaplaincy in Northern Ireland. I would like to pay tribute to the extraordinary chaplains from all Christian denominations and other faiths, the men and women who untiringly give their service to the Prison Parish family.
“Throughout the history of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, chaplains have been appointed to spiritually and pastorally accompany those placed into their care and those they work alongside. In their ministry, chaplains bring an awareness of the need for prisoners to be reconciled and resettled into the community within which much pain and suffering has been caused by their actions,” he said.
Congratulating Fr McBrearty on his honour, Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service Ronnie Armour said: “This is a special day for Fr Stephen, the entire chaplaincy and the whole of the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Chaplains in our three prisons play a crucial role in supporting the people in our care.
“They are a trusted and valuable part of the prison family,” he said.
Dr Treanor said that Fr McBrearty’s role “is a challenging and crucial ministry of pastoral accompaniment which aims at bringing healing and reconciliation to the wider community.
“His award recognises the work of the Churches as they continue to minister to all people across the community, especially those who are marginalised.
“The process of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, while fragile and vulnerable, is a precious and tender gift and achievement. It constantly needs to be cherished and cultivated in order to bring healing and restore trust across the community,” he said.
Bishop Treanor said “these awards, both individually and collectively, pay tribute to the well-deserved contribution of these priests to their respective fields of ministry, pastoral care and the wider community and also to the outreach and role of the Church within society”.