Catholic Church Kilsyth


Fr. Alan Meechan S.V.D.
Fr. Alan's Ordination Service
Fr Alan Meechan
Read Fr Alan's Missionary Diary.

Fr. Alan is a native of Kilsyth and a member of the Divine Word Missionaries.


He is currently based in the Philippines. We have asked him to write to us, when he can, to keep us updated about his work. He has given us some copies of photos of his mission parish and his work before he had to leave and return to the Philippines - which we will publish here in due course.

Fr Alan returend to Kilsyth for 3 months at the end of 2013 and was in St Patrick's for Christms and New Year for the first time since his ordination. He was also here for the opening of the new Parish Hall and a visit from Archbishop Cushley on 6th Novemeber 2013.


As Christians we are all called to evangelise. For many Christians however
evangelisation is always difficult for fear of being rejected or thought of
as a odd in today's world. We, all too often, hide our light under a bushel.
Put simply although we are all called, many of us don't have the courage to
reach out in God's love to our family members, our work mates or members of
our community.

Imagine then the courage that it takes to leave the wealth and comforts of
western society, to leave your family and friends and to reach out to those
in far off lands who are poor, marginalised and struggle with day to day
life. The Devine Word Missionaries are an order of courageous men who leave
everything behind and reach out in God's love, and on our behalf, to bring
the Word of God to some of the most difficult to reach and poorest areas of
the world.

At St Patrick's Kilsyth we are blessed in having a vocation to the Devine
Word Missionaries in Fr Alan Meechan who is currently posted to Inarawan in
the Phillipines. Fr Alan has written the passage below and taken some
photographs to allow us to learn more about his work and the people in
Inarawan.

Even if we are not blessed with the courage to evangelise ourselves we can
pray for those who do. Please pray for Fr Alan Meechan and all the Devine
Word Missionary Priests in their work of bringing the Devine Word God to
those in far off places.

If you feel that you would like to make a donation toward the work that Fr
Alan is undertaking then please send it in an envelope to: Fr Alan Meechan,
Care of the Parish Priest, St Patrick's RC Church, 30 Low Craigends, Kilsyth
or simply drop an envelope through the Parish House door marked for "Fr Alan
Meechan".

 

A Missionary in Mindoro – Fragmented Observations on a visit home to Kilsyth - October 2013.

When I first came to the island of Mindoro in mid 1987 after some months in Manila, I was appointed as assistant in Socorro, a medium sized Parish in the centre of the island with a sickly Filipino Parish Priest. After two and half years I was suddenly transferred to Bulalacao, a rather wild parish in the south of the island with a communist insurgency problem, where I stayed on my own for seven years. This was followed by almost three years in Inarawan, a relatively remote, recently founded village parish which was desperately poor and where the people suffered greatly from recurrent flooding of the river. I was then transferred to San Maraino, another parish in the south of the island, where I spent the next six years. During this time Inarawan was closed as a Parish. It now became part of the larger Barcenaga, twelve miles away. On leaving San Mariano four years ago I was surprised to find myself appointed as assistant in Barcenaga with responsibility for Inarawan.

Apart from our interprovincial noviciate and a college with a very high reputation, there are no specifically SVD apostolates or parishes in Mindoro. SVD’s serve in diocesan parishes or ministries and SVD missionaries in Mindoro are on exactly the same level as diocesan clergy. They have the same benefits, the same respect and the same is expected of them. Only, the foreign missionaries and those with parents in the USA are allowed to have some months’ home leave from time to time, although many diocesan priests also go abroad for various reasons.

The diocesan clergy is still quite young. The oldest (apart from the bishop himself) is only 1 year older than I am. Some diocesan priests have died due to illness or accident, but only now is there a policy being formed for them, and also a retirement house for which there was no need in the past.

Some years ago there was the feeling that the missionaries should leave Mindoro because the diocesan clergy was already established, but in recent time our bishop, the first non SVD one, has acknowledged that there is still a need for the foreign missionaries. He invited us to retire in Mindoro, rather than elsewhere, suggesting activities in which we could still be involved, even in retirement: ‘I hope you die here!’

Many years ago, when I was working in Bulacao, a very difficult parish, a visiting priest in Manila asked me how things were. I said, ‘There are far too many problem!’ to which eh replied, ‘There are always problems in the parish and the only way to deal with them is to take things easy.’ I’ve followed this advice for a long time and it has served me well, particularly in adjusting to the different world view, attitudes and habits of the people with whom I am living. I no longer rush into situations and expect a quick, simple solution, instead, I tend to act more slowly now and deliberately, allowing things to happen rather than forcing them to happen. Some time ago I heard someone say, “He celebrates Mass very slowly”, and the reply was, “He’s slow at everything except for the bike!”

On the mission you soon see your weaknesses. There is always the temptation to blame other people for what happens, especially when you are an assistant in a parish, but when you are alone or become Parish Priest, you may be able to blame the people, but really you eventually see that the fault lies with yourself – your ideal of a fruitful apostolate when you are completely in charge falls to pieces in the cold light of reality. You know however, that there will be future possibilities where you will have the benefit of the perspective of experience and perhaps more ideal conditions, but nothing is ever as good as has been hoped. Of course nothing is ever as bad as you had feared either.

The missionary – the sign of hope.

What greatly stuck me and even gratified me when I returned to Inarawan in 2006 was the attitude of the people. I heard one high school teacher say to her principal, “Father Alan used to be here and was always together with us in the parish youth apostolate. Then he was transferred to the south... but he has come back” The former parish priest had been suppressed and made part of a distant parish. Three times in the past the local priest has been taken away from Inararwan, with no immediate successor, and the people feel that they are abandoned and that they are not valued by the Church. They also feel that no priest wants to stay with them. Now they actually have a priest that has come back of his own accord! I have also noticed this recently when I came back home from leave. The fact that there is a priest in the area seems to mean for the people that the Church is interested in them, also that God has not abandoned them, Mass and the sacraments are celebrated regularly there.

Also there is the fact that the foreign missionary is seen to be making an attempt to adapt to the environment in which he lives and works. When I came back once from home leave, one person said to me, “You have grown fat and become white, but in a few weeks you will become Filipino again.” For me it would suggest that the people know that this country I have adopted is important to me.

A retreat giver encouraged us all to learn by heart the prologue of John’s Gospel. The Word became flesh and lived amongst us. I have always felt that as Devine Word Missionaries we should follow upon the incarnation of Jesus in our lives and mission.

Jesus became Jewish. I know that I could never become Filipino. St Paul the embodiment of the Church’s missionary thrust, tried to be all things to all people. I think I would be content just to be vaguely assimilated Mindoreño.

What I feel should happen in Mindoro, or at least in my place.

For a long time I have felt that Church was far too large to have regular and continuous contact with all her members. Also, while there was a Chapel in every village, these were usually locked except for perhaps an hour every month. Was that the mission of the Church and of the priest, to go to each village once a month, just to celebrate Mass, preach, hear confessions and baptise? If that were so there would be no growth. The church would be priest-centred. This was an impossible situation. The people would gradually lose interest and the Church would weaken or die in that part of the world – or perhaps some sect would come along, which could be there constantly, or more often than a priest could. In which case the Church would again weaken or die in the area.

What would seem to be needed in the Parish is a ministry of presence. How do I achieve this? In a way I am doing this already by being there for the people, but that is not enough. I can’t be everywhere at the same time.

It would appear that this problem is fundamental to the response of the local Church to the situation in Mindoro. Of course, I have been brought up in Europe, in a totally different situation, and the local view was at first incomprehensible for me. I have for time been trying to answer this question for myself. I feel embarrassed that after many years in Mindoro I have still not come to terms with my situation. Or rather, perhaps I have in fact come to accept the situation, but I am not yet ready to put it fully into practice in my ministry. It has taken me a very long time to understand that founding small communities is apparently the only way to meet the problem in the Philippines and elsewhere. Perhaps this would be the way ahead also in the West. Pope Benedict seems to feel that it doesn’t matter if the Church is smaller so longer as it is better. In Larbert in central Scotland, where I once replaced a priest on holiday, I attended a St Vincent de Paul meeting. While the society’s work in Britain has been in many ways circumscribed by the state which now provided for most material needs, I was impressed by the apostolate of the members to elderly, sick, lonely and housebound people in the area. Also, in the daily Mass community in my home parish I have discerned much goodness and care for each other among the people. Through these people the love of Christ reaches out to others who cannot attend, people who are working, the sick, the housebound, often people who would be a part of the daily worshiping community but for their infirmity or other commitments.

Inevitably, however, this community is comprised for the most part elderly people who were retired and therefore had the time to meet for Mass every day. Would such a community die out or would it be replaced by other people as they themselves reach retirement? I think the Church in Scotland is alive but in some ways it is a church of the elderly.

How do I see myself?

I am part of a process which I do not fully understand myself, to work for the purpose of God in the world.

Sometimes I ask myself why I should be a missionary in Mindoro and not elsewhere. The Mangyan tribes people were the original inhabitants of Mindoro but they have been marginalised due to the massive influx of settlers from other islands in the Philippines. While no one can deny the magnificent work that the Church has done in the past and is continuing to do in the present, I think the great failure of the Church in Mindoro is that she has in the past neglected the Mangyans people, but the bishop told me that it was felt that my mission should be with the lowlanders. I do not know why I was not accepted to work with the Mangyans, but I feel this must be part of God’s plan for me.

The vicariate is at present highly involved in education and development. I feel that I cannot be involved as much as I would like to, due to the language, culture, and , perhaps, attitudes and expectations of others working in the vicariate. Possibly this is changing now.

However for some time I have seen my role in the vicariate as to search for God and at the same time to share this with other people. I think my contribution, for what it is worth, is valued by my fellow priests and by the people whom I am trying to serve. Recently I have found myself chosen as confessor for priests, nuns, seminarians, and perhaps this may become my main apostolate as I grow older.

Sometimes I feel that I should be working in my home country, especially when I see the difficulties of our local diocesan priests with the falling off in vocations. However if I did go home, I would probably end up in our parish in Bristol, where i do not see any real need, although of course there is a need everywhere.

What have I done since I came to Mindoro?

Since I came here I have always been in parish work. I have done little more than celebrate Mass in different places, and been there to help the people when they needed me. I have noticed and been surprise by how many people contact me just to talk when they are worried. I have worked in four different places during the last 27 years (7 months at the start helping with the scavengers in Smokey Mountain, the big rubbish dump in manila, and to a lesser extent helping the student teachers at the Philippine Normal College, in manila. I Mindoro, I have usually been on my own, though I have been parish assistant 2 times. I also do a bit of confession/counselling at the novitiate and the local Benedictine monastery.

In my previous place, Inarawan, I have had the unusual experience of formerly having been parish priest there, but later returning as assistant parish priest. It was a fascinating and enriching experience to meet people whom I knew in the past but who are now, like me, more than 10 years older, with much experience accumulated in the meantime. I could see this both on the levels of the adults, often previously young people who were now married and settled, and of the small children whom I had baptised or who used to wave and shout when I passed by on the bike, but who were now at high school or even married and working already.

Recently I was moved to a new parish sandwiched between the sea and the mountains where everyone is engaged in either fishing or coconut harvesting. I found life much easier than in all other places where I had served, partly because I did not have any expectations of myself as the saviour of the parish or the people as my unquestioning helpers. Perhaps this has helped with the reawakening I have witnessed in the parish and the growth and enthusiasm as we prepare to celebrate the parish jubilee next year.

Fr Alan saying Mass on his visit home in September 2010
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass

Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass

Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass

Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass

Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass

Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass
Fr Alan saying Mass

Fr. Alan's Ordination Service
Fr O'Connell assists in the ordination of Fr Meechan


Fr Alan Meechan with some visiting seminarians
Fr Alan Meechan with some visiting seminarians

The entrance procession at Fr Meechans Ordination
The Congregation at St patrick's for Fr Meechans Ordination
Fr Meechan will the priests and altar servers after Mass
The congregation at Fr Meechans Ordination
The congregation at Fr Meechans Ordination
Fr Meechan cuts his cake
Fr Meechans mother helps him cut the cake in St patrick's hall after Mass
The celebration in the hall after Mass
The celebration in the hall after Mass
The celebration in the hall after Mass


 
God BlessYou!