Most people in Ireland know, or have been to, the Mater Hospital in Dublin.
It copes with 21, 500 in-patients a year and is usually noisy and crowded. However, in a quiet corner is the splendid Pillar Room where important functions are held.
Last weeks I was at a ceremony there, the graduation of five students from the CPE or Hospital Chaplaincy course. Two of them were Asian, one from China and one from Korea. Unfortunately neither of them will be chaplains in Irish hospitals as they will return home soon and bringing their skills with them.
The presence of two Asian trainee chaplains in the Mater probably attracted little notice as over 60 nationalities are represented among the staff. However most of the patients are Irish and, listening to the reports, the majority seemed delighted to meet with chaplains from the other side of the world.
The pleasure was not just on one side. The new Chinese graduate,who happens to be one of the residents in our house, told those attending how much the faith of the patients has affected him. The manner in which they drew on that faith to cope with the difficulties in their lives was an inspiration. Faith can be studied and talked about, but seeing its practice implications makes its value clear.
We might be living in a ‘New Ireland’ but it is encouraging to hear that enough faith remains to inspire young people from Asia and elsewhere.