Sunday, 4 May 2008

Dublin University Far Eastern Mission: looking to the future

Patrick Comerford

The Dublin University Far Eastern Mission has adopted a new constitution, which the secretary, Joseph O’Gorman, says will help take the mission into the 21st century and ensure it is rooted in the life of Trinity College Dublin.

The new constitution, drafted by Joseph O’Gorman and the student secretary, Eimhin Walsh, was adopted at the annual general meeting of DUFEM in the Church of Ireland chaplaincy in TCD on Ascension Day.

Earlier, the DUFEM community was well-represented in the congregation at the Ascension Day Eucharist in the College Chapel. As chair of DUFEM, I was invited to read one of the lessons and lead the intercessions, including the prayer of the mission.

At the a.g.m., Joseph O’Gorman pointed out that the old constitution, dating back almost half a century, had become outdated and had been overtaken by the demands of modern college structures that have evolved since the previous constitution was ratified in 1968.

We also heard enthusiastic accounts of the visit to China by a DUFEM delegation for the centenary celebrations at the former Trinity College Fuzhou, founded from Trinity College Dublin in 1907.

The delegates also visited Shanghai, where they received a warm welcome from the China Christian Council and Shanghai YMCA, and visited Holy Trinity Cathedral, the former Anglican Cathedral which is nearing the completion of its restoration.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai ... restoration almost complete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In Hong Kong, they visited Hong Kong YMCA and Saint John’s Cathedral, met Monsignor Eugene Nugent from Scariff, Co Clare, and Canon Ian Lam of Ming Hua Theological College, and received an invitation from Archbishop Paul Kwong for the TCD college choir to visit Hong Kong next year.

Other highlights of the year included the publication of a new study commissioned jointly by DUFEM and the China Educational and Cultural Liaison Committee (CECLC) examining the religious values of the Chinese people living and working in Ireland. The survey was carried out as a first step in determining the pastoral needs of the Chinese community in Ireland, and how these might be met by the Churches.

The report, Mainland Chinese Students and Immigrants in Ireland and Their Engagement with Christianity, Churches And Irish Society, by Dr Richard O’Leary of Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Lan Li of University College Dublin, was launched in March in the Chapel in Trinity College Dublin.

The newly-elected committee includes: President, George Clarke; chair, Patrick Comerford; Secretary, Joseph O’Gorman; Treasurer, Dr Kerry Houston; Student Secretary, Eimhin Walsh; committee members, Elizabeth Oldham, the Revd Niall Sloane, Roisin Rowley-Brooke, and the Revd Darren McCallig. Felix Blennerhassett continues as Administrative Secretary, and Kate Xiang Rong continues as the Shanghai representative of DUFEM.

Roisin Rowley-Brooke is a member of the college choir and a former recipient of the DUFEM bursary that helps TCD students to travel to China. The new committee members represent every sector of college life, with a member of staff, a graduate, a student, and the chaplain. This should help to strengthen DUFEM’s roots in college life.

The accounts, presented by Kerry Houston, show the mission continues to spend more than it receives in parish donations. However, he said he hoped that as DUFEM mission activities become more and more part and parcel of the life of the Church of Ireland, and as DUFEM continues to act as a catalyst in relations between the Church of Ireland and the Church in China, parish donations will increase.

The sermon preached by the Revd Darren McCallig at the Eucharist on Ascension Day can be downloaded from http://www.tcd.ie/Chaplaincy/ireland.htm

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological College, and chair of the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission