Fr Liam PowerFr Liam Power (67) is a Waterford City man, having grown up in Kingsmeadow, the eldest of a family of nine. After secondary school he studied engineering in UCC and worked for a year in London after graduation. He told us that he felt a call to priesthood, but dismissed it for a few years. “I did not want to know!” he said. Eventually he decided to go to Maynooth to ‘try out’ this vocation thing and soon discovered that indeed it was “what the Lord wanted of me”. Currently, Fr Power is the pastor in the Parish of St Joseph and St Benildus having served as Communications Officer for the diocese for 24 years and also as Director of Pastoral Development.
Life in a Day
Like everywhere else, parish life has dramatically changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We have become a kind of virtual parish. The big challenge for us is connecting with our parishioners, to accompany them, in a way that is meaningful and supportive in a time of such uncertainty and anxiety as they negotiate this minefield of social distancing and attempting to stay safe.
We are fortunate to have live-streaming facilities, which means parishioners can join us (virtually) for liturgy and prayer every day. We are twinned with Ishiara Parish in Kenya and we are delighted to announce that our first major project, the construction of a sand-dam, has successfully concluded. The dam will ensure a supply of water for quite a number of families in Ishiara. Thanks to all who supported the fundraising endeavours. Something to celebrate in these depressing times!
What school did you go to?
I was a pupil in Mount Sion Primary and Secondary Schools.
What teacher do you remember most vividly?
I was blessed to have had quite a few inspirational teachers in Mount Sion. Bro Peader Gleeson taught us in sixth class in the primary school. He is still very involved in Mount Sion. We felt we were ready to sit the Intermediate Cert when we completed the sixth class programme as Bro Peader was so skilled, so inspirational as a teacher. He even gave us an introductory course in Latin (I boast that our education in the classics was conducted tri gaeilge).
I am very appreciative of the secondary school education I received at Mount Sion. Two teachers stand out. Bro. Sean Brereton (RIP) (we nick-named him Ben) and Sean Crowe. Bro. Ben taught maths and physics and applied maths. He inspired us to engage confidently with these subjects – so much so that I opted to study engineering after school.
Sean Crowe taught us English literature. He sparked a passion for literature that continues to this day and which has enriched my life considerably. Literature provides us with a window into the soul and helps me at least to interpret and appreciate the more abstract theological doctrines such as redemption, grace etc.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
I would tell him to always trust in Divine Providence, things always turn out for the better. Don’t allow yourself to be overcome by anxiety or fear. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your talents and believe you are precious in the sight of God.
How do you relax?
I enjoy reading and watching the occasional film or going to the theatre. I also enjoy jogging with ‘Huffers and Puffers’ on a Saturday morning.
What is your favourite film and piece of music?
In a supposedly secularised world it is remarkable that so many films, regarded as modern classics, feature a Christ figure as the main protagonist. I am thinking of films such as ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’, ‘Dead Man Walking’, ‘Babette’s Feast’, ‘Cool Hand Luke’. Even in ‘Star Wars’, the figure of Obi-Wan Kenobi, on a number of levels, represents Jesus Christ. My favourite film, however, is ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. Shawshank prison with its grey granite walls securing the incarceration of the prisoners is a metaphor for today’s world of suffering and pain where real freedom is often denied. The main protagonist, Andy Dufresne, though innocent, is incarcerated in this awful, cruel, oppressive, inhumane prison. In a Christ-like manner he engages with his fellow prisoners and gradually transforms their lives, instilling new hope in their despairing souls. The oppressive prison warden embodies the Scribes and the Pharisees. It is a powerful representation of the Gospel story dramatically portraying its relevance for a secularised world.
The piece of music featured in the ‘Transfiguration Scene’ in this film is one of the most beautiful pieces ever composed. It is ‘Duettino- Sull’aria’ from one of Mozart’s most popular operas ‘The Marriage of Figaro’.
When was the last time you cried?
When people stood outside their doors and clapped to show appreciation and gratitude for the front-line healthcare workers who so selflessly put their own lives at risk to save others. Rarely have I seen the Gospel mandate about laying down one’s life so that others may live so dramatically enacted and then for this sacrifice to be so appreciated. It communicated a deep sense of solidarity.
What has been your happiest moment of recent times?
It almost seems incongruous to be speaking of ‘happy moments’ in these strange times. But I have been truly uplifted by the remarkable resilience and generosity of spirit demonstrated by so many parishioners since we were beset by this plague.
Do you pray?
I pray the Divine Office every day: it gives rhythm and structure to the day, comprising as it does morning, evening and night prayer. I find prayer centres my life and sustains me in ministry. It brings healing and consolation and is a source of joy.
What is your biggest fear?
Pope Francis’ letter ‘On care for our common home’ was published five years ago; it explores the causes and effects of climate change and environmental degradation. We need urgent action at international and local level to combat the devastating consequences of climate change. I fear that we won’t make the radical changes needed in our lifestyle and economic models to ensure sustainability for future generations.
What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession in not material at all, neither is it a possession in the strict sense of the word. It is rather a gift, the gift of faith. It has really anchored me during this pandemic and gives me strength and the resilience to face fears and to negotiate the daily challenges in a time of uncertainty.
What is your favourite thing about living in Waterford?
I love almost everything about Waterford. (I am alarmed by the housing shortage and the level of drug abuse). But I am so proud of our treasured heritage, our amazing musical tradition, our poets and playwrights, our wonderful educational establishments, the rich architectural heritage and the proximity to the sea and mountains. But above all its people…
If you could change one thing about Waterford, what would it be?
I look forward to the day the Technological University is established. I am confident it will happen. I believe the ‘knowledge’ economy which will be a fruit of the university will be a great stimulus for development in the city and county. I would love to see a more comprehensive policy promoting the model of development outlined by Pope Francis in his letter ‘On caring for our common home.’ For example, we could have Park and Ride systems, bicycle rent stations, and a biodiversity officer should be appointed.