Taking a leap of faith following years of formation

Taking a leap of faith following years of formation

Cathal Barry reflects fondly on his time working with The Irish Catholic

It is with mixed emotions that I write what is likely to be my final column for The Irish Catholic. While my by-line may occasionally appear on these pages, this edition will be my last as a staff member before taking up a new role in corporate and financial public relations later in the summer.

While I’ve been busy with regular duties, my final few weeks at The Irish Catholic have been a genuine period of reflection for me. It is unsurprising that at every critical juncture in one’s life, especially one that involves a change that will inevitably shape one’s future, one spends so much time pondering the past. I’ve always subscribed to the dictum that to know where one is going, one must have an intimate awareness of where one has come from.

Aside from my parents, extended family and friends, the Church has been one of the other major influencing factors on my life. In a sense, my entire life to date has been spent in theological formation of some sort or another.

Growing up I attended a Catholic primary school named for John the Baptist and went on to complete my Leaving Certificate under the guidance of the Jesuits at Belvedere College. I later graduated from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth with a degree in theology and English before studying for a Masters in theology at Mater Dei Institute of Education. Adding this to my four years at The Irish Catholic amounts to a cumulative 26 years of formation in the Faith.

Of all those learning experiences, I must admit, the most recent four years have taught me the most. Aside from being my first real taste of the working world, The Irish Catholic has provided me with more opportunities than I ever could have hoped for. It is in a sense ironic that having opted to specialise in a narrow field, I now find my perspectives on society, politics and life in general broader than ever before.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as such a surprise, given the extent to which the Church intersects with so many different spheres. In fact, it is perhaps due to my experiences working in such a niche that now I feel ready to take the leap into a somewhat broader sphere.


With me I take the skills I’ve worked hard to hone over the past four years. I’m thinking here of a sense of newsworthiness, an eye for detail and an ability to build, and sometimes mend, solid relationships. Most valuable, however, are those aforementioned broad perspectives and an ability to think outside the box.

I remember a family friend, a priest working then as a chaplain at a top university, once telling me about a proposed programme that would allow cross-over between different fields of study. In practice, he said, this would allow the likes of engineers and architects to study subjects such as art history or English literature. In theory, he remarked, such a development might inspire said professionals to build an even more beautiful bridge or building.

There has been much discussion recently of the need to have properly formed lay people working in the so-called secular world. It is with this in mind that I dive into another field, hoping that I will, with my extensive formation in theology, be able to bring something unique to my new role.

Cutting teeth

The past four years have been a truly fascinating time to be reporting on Church affairs. I arrived at The Irish Catholic in the weeks leading up to the International Eucharistic Congress in 2012, a momentous occasion that marked somewhat of a turning point for a badly damaged and hurting Church in Ireland.

History was made eight months later when Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope in 600 years to resign before the election of Pope Francis and the whirlwind that went, and continues to go, with his refreshing and free-wheeling style.

Now I take my leave not long after another significant announcement, that my native Dublin is set to host the major World Meeting of Families in 2017 and that Pope Francis himself may be making a much anticipated appearance.

There have been endless developments in the Church both here and abroad, far too many to mention, since I began my journalistic career.

Readers, however, I think will agree that The Irish Catholic was some place to cut my teeth!

Before signing off, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to everybody at The Irish Catholic. It has truly been a privilege to work at a place where a colleague can be considered a friend, where an office feels like home and where the truth, above all else, matters most.