This Post has been reproduced courtesy of the Nairnshire Telegraph
The only person to have been ordained a priest in almost 153 years at St Mary’s RC Church in Nairn is set to become its next priest. Rev Fr Damian Martell made history when he became its first ordained priest on July 7, 2007. Fr Martell (48) is replacing Rev Fr Francis Barnett who is retiring from full time ministry. The 83-year-old’s valedictory Mass will be on Sunday, May 21. He concelebrated at Fr Martell’s ordination Mass.
During his time in Nairn, Fr Barnett celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his own ordination in 2013 in the company of parishioners and Bishop of Aberdeen, the Rt Rev Hugh Gilbert. And in the early part of his ministry in Nairn, he delivered a number of talks and showed slides on the Holy Land, including in the Old Parish Church and St Ninian’s Church. Fr Barnett said he was now looking forward to putting his feet up a bit more and he certainly won’t miss the increasing heaps of paperwork that has increasingly landed on his desk over the years.
“It’s been a busy time and it really is a job for a younger man,” he told the Nairnshire. “I won’t miss routine parish work. The paperwork has got worse over the years. What I will miss is saying Mass regularly.”
When the Glaswegian moved to Nairn in September 1998, to take over from Fr Gerard Hassay, he thought he would be here for not more than two years. (The two priests actually exchanged parishes – Fr Hassay taking over at the Sacred Heart Church in Edinburgh).
And almost 19 years on, he still has no plans to leave Nairn as he will be staying locally to provide cover for holidays and sickness to the clergy of the diocese. “Fr Hassay, whom I knew very well, liked Nairn very much and I have certainly found it a very attractive place. “I’ve also got to know a lot of people right along the Moray coast. “I wish Fr Martell every success. Although I’ll still be around he must get the freedom to do what he wants. “But with the scarcity of clergy [in the diocese] I’ll be around to stand in on a Sunday, but I won’t be sticking around for a week anywhere.”
This year will be Fr Barnett’s 65th year as member of the Society of Jesus, otherwise known as the Jesuits. “I want a rest,” he added. “I’m 83…I’ve done a wee bit of work!”
Fr Martell is a member of the Kiltegan Fathers (St Patrick Missionary Society). He is no stranger to the area, having close family ties in Nairn and Forres. After leaving Forres Academy he attended Glasgow University and gained a degree in Politics before studying to become a teacher.
But in 1997 he began his vocational studies with the St Patrick’s Missionary Society in Ireland. He was one of the first international students to join the society. Two years were spent studying for a Bachelor of Philosophy in South Africa and five years in Nairobi, Kenya, studying for his Bachelor of Religious Studies.
He was ordained a Deacon in 2006 and prior to becoming a priest he was working for the Church in Cibera, a huge slum area of Nairobi. After his ordination, Fr Martell returned to Kenya where he worked for a year in Mombassa as an assistant priest before running his own parish in Kitale until 2015. He then returned to London to work in the Kiltegan Fathers’ office.
Since February 2016 he has been assisting Fr Colin Stewart in the St Sylvester’s Pastoral area of Elgin.
“St Mary’s is a strong and vibrant parish and I’m looking forward to working with the parishioners and the whole community.”
An induction Mass for Fr Martell, led by the Bishop of Aberdeen, will he held in the summer. He takes over from Fr Barnett on May 22.