Lockdown has left many people, businesses and organisations struggling and the Pioneer Association – a Catholic movement against alcohol abuse – is no different. Knowing this, for life-long member and activist Mary Brady it was a no-brainer to put her recovery from a hip operation to good use. She has raised more than €1,000 through her walk for the pioneers.
In donating the proceeds of her walk to the Pioneer Association, Mrs Brady is continuing a connection with the organisation that stretches back to the 1973”
“We’d lost most of our fundraising as a result of Covid,” Mrs Brady tells The Irish Catholic. “We would get funds coming in from our Church gate collections. But with all Masses off, that’s all gone. Even when they do go back, you’ve fewer people attending. Church gate collections, you wouldn’t get an awful lot. Presentation of gold and silver and diamond emblems, young pioneers joining at confirmation – we lost all those sales as well.
“I had to do the walk anyway, the exercise and the walks are vital. Before I went in for my first operation back in November, I barely could walk 200 yards. I could only go out a little bit on the roads and I would struggle to get back. Now I can do 2km and I’ve no problem.”
Mrs Brady committed to walking 50km before May 31. At the time of interviewing, she had 36kms done, but with a second operation in a week, she knows she has to put the pedal to the metal.
“I have until the 31 May, but my biggest thing now is to get it done before I’m called in,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean when I’m home that I don’t have to go out walking again. But I wouldn’t be doing a kilometre straight off, I’d have to build it back up again.”
In donating the proceeds of her walk to the Pioneer Association, Mrs Brady is continuing a connection with the organisation that stretches back to 1973.
“I joined when I was 16 in my local centre in Duleek,” she tells The Irish Catholic. “I became actively involved with them then in 1973. It was in that year then that the East Meath region was formed of which Duleek was one of the centres. I’ve been actively involved in that region ever since. I’ve been chair, secretary, treasurer, PRO. You’re talking about 48 years in that. From that then I became involved in the diocese and the provincial councils.
Though she retired from the office in 2017, Mrs Brady continues to do work behind the scenes for the pioneers, whose work she considers to be very important”
“When I got involved with the pioneers, I became very involved with it at many levels. And here I am today, still involved and busier than ever. For the centenary year 1999, for celebrations to mark the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the association, I was invited onto the centenary committee and I became vice-chair of that.
“I worked alongside Fr Micheál Mac Gréil in preparing Croke Park for the big rally that was there in May 1999. From that then, in September I ended up working three days a week in the office and in 2013 I became the office manager.”
Though she retired from the office in 2017, Mrs Brady continues to do work behind the scenes for the pioneers, whose work she considers to be very important.
“Oh it’s a vital organisation to have,” she says. “If you take it that the Pioneer Association wasn’t there, where would we be where alcohol is concerned? And the Pioneers is not against alcohol, it’s the overindulgence and abuse of alcohol that really is the problem. Bearing in mind we have in and around 120,000 full members and we have teetotallers and people who are moderate drinkers.
“We have a lot of support and the association is badly needed. I think you can lead by example as well, it’s a good way of doing it. You can preach as much as you like to people, but sometimes that can go over their heads and it’s what you do yourself that can make the difference.”
Mrs Brady never felt like she wanted to drink, which was part of the reason for her joining the Pioneers she explains. But the other reason was for the social aspect, one which Covid has put a hold on.
“Covid really has caused us a lot of hardship,” Mrs Brady says. “We can’t be out and have meetings, people are afraid to go out to meetings and things like that. When this happened we realised how important the pioneers was to everybody, meeting up. We haven’t seen each other face-to-face for a long time either.”
“For me, for someone who had been very quiet, I became very much part of the association. There’s not really a part of the country that I wouldn’t know somebody. Travelling with the Gradam Awards, the quiz competitions, when those events were in full flow – you were up and down the country, you were meeting people, they were fantastic. I met my late husband in the pioneers as well, actually.
“It was great, because in the earlier days when I started with them, every week there’d be some presentation with them, some social event organised in one or other of the centres in the region. You got to know people, up and down the country. It was a great way to get to know people.”