Sharing a love of God’s Word in Cork

Sharing a love of God’s Word in Cork Dr Philip and Marian Mortell from Ballinlough, Co. Cork, after completing their PhDs with Mary Immaculate College
Personal Profile

Dr Marian Mortell developed a love of Scripture from her school days, and it was a love the really began to flourish ten years ago. She took early retirement from her teaching career to return to study, and along with other lovers of Scripture in Cork set up the Cork Scripture Group. Dr Mortell recently completed a PhD in Scripture studies from Mary Immaculate College, along with her husband Philip.

Speaking about the Cork Scripture Group, Marian explains that that it began with a group of volunteers simply saying “we’ll see how it goes” and continuing from there.

“We were hoping to celebrate our 10th anniversary at the start of lockdown,” she explains. “We’ve been running a course and trying to promote Scripture in the greater Cork area, trying to get people interested in reading Scripture and praying Scripture and stuff like that. It’s something that has really caught my imagination in the last 10 years.”

Scripture

Her interest in Scripture traces back to her school days, and her time with the Legion of Mary, which she joined at the age of 11 after her Confirmation. “I was very involved in the Legion of Mary when I was in school. Everyone would have joined when they made their Confirmation, it was just the thing you did. Even though there wouldn’t have been a big scriptural element, it would have attracted me.

“It gave you practical experience of meeting people where they’re at. One of the things it would have taught me, I would have gone out thinking we have all the answers and then realising we don’t. Everyone has something to bring and everyone is loved and God shines through everyone in different ways.”

All the while that Dr Mortell was furthering her understanding of the Scriptures through study, she was attempting to share its beauty with those she could”

After finishing secondary school, Marian did a BA in UCC and as soon as she started teaching, she did a diploma in catechetics: “We had an incredible lecturer, Fr Ned Goold, he lectured on Scripture for the two years of the course. Funnily enough, he ended up on the committee for our Cork Scripture Group for a few years recently. He was the most wonderful scriptural teacher, he just brought it to life. He really would have set a very firm foundation.

“Once I started teaching, I taught religion all the time and tried to integrate Scripture into the religion teaching and trying to connect it with life if at all possible. A thing I always emphasise is actually reading the text, not getting the children’s bible stuff around the story, actually really grappling with what does it say to me. That has been part of my religion teaching.”

It was while she was still a teacher that a friend recommended she and her husband Phil do a diploma in Scripture with the Dominican Biblical Institute (DBI), which proved to be the next stage in her journey of loving God’s Word.

“Myself and my husband thought it could be interesting,” Marian begins. “Again, we were blessed with wonderful teachers, including Jessie Rogers now with Maynooth and Fr Brendan Clifford OP, people with an incredible love of Scripture who connected it with life.”

Masters

“We started that with the DBI, and Jessie Rogers who was working with Mary Immaculate at the time suggested doing a masters. I said, you know what, I’m going to take early retirement. I went back to Mary I then and did a masters on theology, focusing as much as I could on Scripture.

“And then again, Jessie threw out the idea of a PhD. I was saying no way and then all of a sudden, I said I’ll try this. Phil, we both followed it and we both ended up graduating the same week.”
All the while that Dr Mortell was furthering her understanding of the Scriptures through study, she was attempting to share its beauty with those she could.

“I would have been involved in our parish in Holy Cross Mahon, Cork,” she says. “At the time, Fr Sean O’Sullivan had just started off ‘Unfolding the Word’, which is like lectio Divina with a bit more input. It’s basically gathering people together to read the scriptures and to pray. We began running a group in the parish, with maybe 14 or 15 people gathering.

“After finishing secondary school, Marian did a BA in UCC and as soon as she started teaching, she did a diploma in catechetics”

“I suppose that was two years before the DBI. Then we went to the DBI and it was a non-stop journey from then on. A number of us got the idea of doing something for Scripture in Cork – there isn’t anywhere in Cork specifically focused on Cork – and I’d say every Scripture scholar in the Cork area came to one of the meetings with us.

“They all said they’d love to do a few talks for us, so we began an introductory course for the Bible and ended up with nearly 40 people signing up for it in the city, and 14-15 in West Cork. It went from there. We now run two modules a year, four Monday nights and a Saturday workshop.”
So began the Cork Scripture Group, which has gone from strength to strength. Marian explains that they are hoping to expand their reach, having worked on their website corkscripturegroup.com during lockdown.

“We’re hoping to be able to offer something more to ministers of the word when people are able to meet up again. We’re talking about living word, giving people concrete study on Scripture and how do we use it. There’s six of us on the committee and we just want to bring Scripture alive.”