‘My faith was a comfort through the tough times’

Prayer and pilgrimage sustains family through double tragedy

A brave family have revealed how their Catholic faith has sustained them in the face of the devastation of losing two members to suicide.

Angela Hayes and her son Alan, who have courageously shared their experience to highlight mental health issues, have said that the family’s faith has been vital in helping them come to terms with their tragic losses.

Angela’s husband Tommy took his own life in 2002, leaving a young widow and four young sons – Alan 4, Robert 7, Thomas 10, Stephen 13. Nine years later after attending his father’s anniversary Mass, Thomas also took his own life.

After the death of her husband, Angela said “My faith had been a big comfort through the tough times”. However, she told The Irish Catholic that following the death of her son she was unable to pray.

“I couldn’t say a Hail Mary after my son died. I was not angry with God, I was in so much pain,” Angela said. “Then in Christmas of 2011 everything changed for me when I went to the Medjugorje Youth Group Friday night service and from that day on I haven’t looked back.

“I’m not sure what happened but it was a lovely experience.

“It was uplifting to see youngsters enjoying a prayer group.”

“I started attending the meetings every Friday night and just loved it. It is a quiet, safe, peaceful time when I could pray,” she said.

The next year the family joined the youth pilgrimage to Medjugorje and both Angela and Alan (17) said they found a sense of peace there.

“Everything feels so safe and you feel you could walk through the streets with a million euro and wouldn’t be touched,” Alan said. “Everyone being together, singing songs at Mass, walking up mountains together, everyone encouraging each other on and making sure everyone gets to the top – everyone is there for each other.”

“It felt safe and I felt Our Lady was there,” Angela said. “I went to Confession and it was so emotional. The priest said Our Lady has been through similar to what I have been though and can understand me and it just made my life a little bit easier.

“I put my trust in Our Lady in everything I do in my life and that has given me contentment,” she said.