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    Emigrant chaplains featured on TG4

    By Noreen Bowden | May 6, 2008

    A four-part documentary is telling the stories of emigrant chaplains in Britain and the US. Séiplinigh na nImirceach, being aired on TG4 throughout May, tells the story of four members of the Emigrant Chaplaincy Scheme, which was set up in 1957 to serve emigrants in the US and Britain.

    One of those interviewed is Ean board member Sr Attracta Heneghan, who worked with the Irish in Huddersfield. Also featured is Fr Michael Leonard, who works in Chicago.

    See the information at the bottom to watch the programmes online.

    The filmmakers say:

    As Chaplains they were there to provide pastoral care to the emigrants but more often found themselves much more deeply involved in the lives of the emigrants than they could possibly have imagined. For many emigrants the Chaplain was seen as a first port of call, to sort accommodation, and employment and to deal with the difficulties many young Irish found themselves in in a strange land. In recent years, we have become very aware of our ‘Diaspora’ and their role in the development of today’s Ireland. In this series, the Chaplains have the opportunity to tell their own side of the emigration story. We also hear from the emigrants themselves, those who have stayed abroad and those who returned.

    The programme also looks at parallels with new immigrant communities in Ireland.

    The programme airs on Sunday nights at 9:30 throughout May. Here are the outlines for the individual programmes:

    Programme 1 An taithí I Londain Sunday May 4th
    Fr Tom Looney is currently Parish Priest of the Gaeltacht community of Dingle. As a young priest he was sent to London to work as an Emigrant Chaplain. Through his experiences we introduce the work of the Emigrant Chaplains and the importance of their role. We also draw parallels between his work London with Irish emigrants and the contemporary situation in Dingle for the new immigrant communities.

    Programme 2 An taithí i Huddersfield – Sunday May 11th

    The second programme in our series looks at the particular experiences of those who emigrated to Huddersfield in the North of England. Huddersfield always had a particular draw for emigrants from Connemara, and in recent years, Sr Attracta Heneghan worked with the older Irish emigrants who have settled there. Now back in Ireland, Attracta meets with Sr Marilyn, a Nigerian Nun who has come to Ireland to provide pastoral support for African immigrants who are settling here.

    Programme 3 An taithí i Sasana – Sunday May 18th

    Fr Gearoid Ó Griofa reflects on his work as an emigrant chaplain with particular responsibility for emigrants in London from Gaeltacht areas in the 1980’s. We examine how today’s chaplains in London are working with the elderly and often lonely Irish emigrants, the same generation which the original chaplains were sent to help 50 years ago. In his current role as PP in the suburbs of Galway Ó Griofa also comments on challenge of multicultural Ireland with examples of cooperation with local NGOs and foreign chaplains.

    Programme 4 An taithí i Chicago – Sunday May 25th

    Our fourth programme follows Fr Michael Leonard on his rounds in Chicago – a particularly Irish city. His brief is to work with newly arrived and undocumented Irish, but the old established Irish community (and their children) still welcome the connection with the Irish priest. We feature contributions from the older Irish-American community who had to leave Ireland and the newer generation who are in USA by choice.

    Watch the programmes online! They are subtitled, in case your Irish is rusty. Here is how to find them:

    1. Go to
    2. On the left, click on “Cláir Eile – Cartlann”
    3. Scroll down until you see each of the four episodes of “Séiplinigh na nImirceach”.

    Topics: Church, Latest News, services for emigrants, UK, US | No Comments »