Father of six, co-ordinator of Síolta Retreats and co-founder of charity Another Pair of Hands, faith and good works has always been central to Armagh man Bosco McShane.
“Faith was always a big part of my life,” Bosco said to The Irish Catholic. “A big influence on my life was Mother Teresa and the work she did in the missions.
“She was the be all and end all for me, a living saint walking among us. I always had a strong interest in the missions and wanted to see if I had a vocation.
“I didn’t, I have six kids now and my wife is a big part of our retreat team and the foundation of setting it up.”
Bosco and his wife Lynette had an opportunity to work with the Sisters of Charity when they went on a mission trip to India in 2003/4.
“We worked for nearly 10 years out in Calcutta, going back and forward, working with people with leprosy, AIDS and TB,” Bosco said. “It gave you a great sense of belonging to the Church, gave a sense of the Holy Spirit in action when you saw her sisters.
“We formed charity back then called Another Pair of Hands, working with poorest of poor. All the money raised went back out to India and Africa.”
Bosco and Lynette continue with their charity, focusing more on Africa as time went on. Even during lockdown, Bosco continues to help missionaries out updating their websites, advertising for vocations and running virtual classes.
“We work with the Franciscan Missionary Sisters in Lusaka, Zambia. At the minute, we’re running a virtual classroom over WhatsApp.
“We’ll post in a short reading from Genesis and the like, or else a YouTube video, for them to reflect on. At the end of the day, they’ll get back to us with their thoughts.”
However, their main project is Síolta Retreats, which they set up in 15 years ago at the behest of Cardinal Sean Brady, then Archbishop of Armagh.
“The Diocese of Armagh didn’t have a retreat group time at the time and Cardinal Sean Brady was looking for a team of 6 to go into schools,” Bosco said.
“We were asked if we’d consider taking it on. How it started was that we would go in giving our testimony and telling the students about the great work missionary priests and nuns were doing.
“That’s how it started, we didn’t come up with a plan to talk to 12,000 students. That was the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Síolta Retreats now work with 12,000 students a year, preparing students for to receive the sacraments, leading retreats and bringing youth groups on mission trips to Zambia.
“Many young people think that after their confirmation, that’s the end of it,” Bosco said. “But we want to let young people know that confirmation is the beginning of their faith, is the foundation.
“It’s up to them to develop their faith on their own and spread it. We help them on that journey in whatever way we can.”
Bosco believes that young people are interested in the faith, but much of it comes down to how it is presented to them.
“Young people are definitely looking for something,” he said. “I do think they are yearning for something and if we can deliver it to them properly, it will be Jesus Christ and the Blessed Sacrament.”
Bosco thinks that religious education should be taken out of schools and done in parishes and the home.
“We’re bringing people through school and they still don’t know why we do things,” he said. “We’re lacking a lot of catechesis.
“Faith is everything to me and my family, everything else comes second. We go to Mass every Sunday, we say the rosary every night.
“That’s where it has to begin. Parents are the ones who can take catechesis to the next level.
“You can see that with vocations, it’s begins in the home. I think if you do your work foundation work in early life, everything else will fall into place.”
When asked about it, Bosco said he had sympathy for those who see Ireland as missionary territory.
“We sent out for years hundreds if not thousands of priests and nuns around the world, but we are in missionary territory now in Ireland,” he said.
“We are going to be receiving priests from the countries we went out to. But I’ll tell young people who go to mass, the minute you walk of out Church on Sunday, you’re in missionary territory.
“You are meant to be a disciple of Christ, to evangelise, to try to be Christ to everybody we see and meet. They’ll see then that you have something that they want and they’ll want it as well.”