Monday, November 25, 2013

He made much of the time he was given

A piece I wrote for the Irish Catholic Newspaper in memory of Father Martin Clarke RIP who passed away on 23 October 2013: 

I met Father Martin Clarke for the first time at my interview for the job of Communications Officer with the Catholic Communications Office back in the Summer of 2000. I was nervous about the interview panel but he immediately put me at ease. I came to learn this was one of his many human qualities. I was successful with my application and began work as Communications Officer with the Catholic Communications Office 13 years ago this month, in November 2000.

At that time the Catholic Communications Office (CCO) was in many ways being established in Maynooth as a result of the merger between Father Martin’s office as Principal Spokesperson and the Catholic Press and Information Office in Booterstown. This movement and change was part of a much wider restructuring of the Councils, Agencies and Offices of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference that was taking place at the time. We had a small team of three people, so I had to very quickly learn the ropes of what was and still is a very busy office.

I joined the CCO just before we entered into a very challenging time for media relations and the Catholic Church in Ireland. But Father Martin was a wonderful teacher and mentor. He was patient and kind in the way he dealt with people. He had great attention to detail which he honed during his time studying and then practising law as a solicitor. When Martin gave me a project to work on, I could always follow the details because he had laid them out so meticulously.

Martin always had a wonderful rapport with young people and this obviously came from his work with Catholic Youth Care and Saint Kevin’s Young Adult Community in Dublin. I was always struck by his energy and positivity concerning all his pastoral responsibilities.

A late vocation, Father Martin was a happy priest and he was always willing to share his vocation story and journey as a way of inspiring others to seize the moment, to aim high. He was prayerful and spiritual and always took great care in his pastoral duties.

Martin had a great sense of humour and some of his puns were often just what a particular moment needed. He also had an amazing recall for quotes which he used to great effect in interviews with the media.
I worked with Martin from November 2000 to November 2003 in the CCO. Some of the big issues we worked on in those days were: Child Safeguarding, Policing in Northern Ireland, the 2002 Abortion Referendum, the establishment of Day for Life in Ireland and the 2002 meeting between the Northern Ireland Church Leaders and the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It was under Martin’s stewardship that the CCO began to embrace new communications and established the first website for the Bishops’ Conference. While times were challenging they were also exciting and Martin was always very encouraging to his staff when it came to additional learning and training.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 Martin was one of my first visitors. He sat with me and listened, he prayed with me and offered great support to my family. He encouraged me and assured me that there is life after a diagnosis with serious illness. The way he bore his own illness and the many health setbacks he had, was inspiring not only to me but to anyone who knew him.

I think I am a better person for having known Martin for just a few of his 66 years and the world is certainly a duller place now that he has left it. May he rest in peace.

Brenda Drumm

PS After writing this article I recalled a birthday present he got for me one year 'ABBA GOLD'! I am still playing those tunes Martin. 

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