Matthew Carlson learns about the intricacies of parish life
Born in England, Glen Phillips says that there were two things that were enforced in his house growing up: soccer and Faith. “I grew up going to Mass. Growing up in our house there were two things, being Catholic and supporting Manchester United,” says Glen.
Growing up in a Catholic environment, Glen and his family went to Mass often, and his Faith developed quickly given the piety of his parents. After he moved out, his own religious convictions did not waver, primarily due to the strong Faith foundation he garnered from his family and his devout friends. He says, that in particular, parish priests and prominent Catholics set a “good example” for him, leading to the shaping and forming of his Faith.
This formation was especially pertinent as he got older, where he learned to appreciate his religious traditions in a much deeper way. “I suppose like anything as you get older and you gain more experience, you grow to appreciate it,” says Glen.
After having kids of his own, his desire is that they would grow up in a way that fosters their Faith and they would understand the importance of going to Mass. “As a family we went to Mass and it was important that we are Catholic and for our family growing up in Belfast it’s important that them being Catholic is just part of identifying themselves.”
Glen is the Parish Manager at the St Oliver Plunkett Parish in Belfast. At his job, Glen helps out the parish priest in keeping care of the grounds, managing finances and helping out with the staff. Glen recalls that over the years, the number of priests in the parish decreasing has made it difficult to maintain the services that the parish provides. “Twenty years ago, this parish had three priests and then 10 years ago it was down to one so the pastoral council decided to employ someone to manage the parish,” says Glen.
The priest, he explains, would be responsible for duties like taking care of the finance accounts, making sure the parish grounds are kept, and helping with the day to day functions of the staff in addition to his pastoral duties.
So, the pastoral council decided to employ someone who could assist the priest with his duties so that he could focus on priestly matters.
With the other part of his childhood being invested into supporting Manchester United, it’s no surprise that sports, like his Faith, have continued to be a passion even into adulthood. Glen has four kids and all of them are involved in GAA sports.
“Well I coach GAA football and I’m involved in the local GAA club and all my kids are involved in the GAA as well,” says Glen. GAA football and handball are the sports that he and his family are most involved in.
“You know, when you’re a young person you’ve got everything ahead of you and then when you become a parent, you’re constantly thinking about the next generation, your own children, your wife and your family and how they develop in that way.”
Glen even coaches the local football club and used to be involved in coaching the school’s football team. “That and I am involved in the Irish language locally,” says Glen.
“More promoting the Irish language community and doing what we can to make it a living language in Belfast.”
According to Glen, it’s important to invest at the local level not only in children and language, but politics as well. He has long been an advocate for social issues on a local government level. “I’ve always been involved with politics at a local level and have always tried to see what would the Catholic way forward be.”
With the recent abortion referendum in the Republic of Ireland, eyes have been turning to the North to see if it will follow along and make changes regarding its stance on the issue. Glen says that although there are a lot of issues in the North, this is one that a lot of people are discussing and is important to modern day society.
“I think it’s important that Catholics are taking the lead and standing up whether it’s the issue of abortion, or when I was growing up the issues happening in Belfast City,” says Glen. He continues that Catholics are the ones who should be in active roles in political matters, especially when supporting those downtrodden. “Catholics should be involved in some community activism whether that is supporting orphans or anything that’s happening locally and take that role.”
With the Faith and a passion for people and sports instilled in him, Glen looks to continue to develop his Faith and lead others to have a meaningful relationship with the Lord.