‘I speak so that my past does not become somebody’s future.’ Elie Wiesel
Tomi Reichental was born in Slovakia in 1935 and had a typical rural childhood until the ugly existence of antisemitism began to impact on his life. Liberties we all take for granted were stolen from him and he was treated with ever increasing hostility. Eventually he was captured by the Nazis and incarcerated in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
As the number of Holocaust survivors diminishes, Tomi is acutely aware that he is one of the final witnesses. He feels compelled to tell his story to young people so that they will know what happened in the Holocaust. Tomi believes he owes it to the victims and he owes it to the survivors to ensure that this horrendous episode in European history is never forgotten.
It was a privilege and an honour for our senior level students to hear Tomi’s story for themselves today in Franciscan College Gormanston. He told us the story of how it happened that 35 members of his family were murdered and what became of those who were lucky enough to survive. The students were shocked by the inhumanity of the situation and saddened by the profound effect it had on Tomi himself – he could not speak about these events for more than 50 years.
We are indebted to him for giving so generously of his time and energy today. He spoke individually with many students, signed copies of his book and allowed us to take photos as a memento of his visit.
As the class of 2014 leave their school days behind and go their separate ways, may they find joy and fulfillment in the different paths they choose. May they seek and offer help whenever it is needed. May they find strength to allow them to weather the storms of life. May they contribute to the greatness of the world around them. May they find happiness in their pursuits and their relationships.
Here are two wishes that also offer advice on how to be happy and strong in the world: ‘Desiderata’:
Also ‘Forever Young’ by Bob Dylan (Here’s the cover by The Pretenders):
These two pieces sum up the best of everything that will help these past pupils find true meaning and joy in life.
On 10th April 2014, six brave students from Gormanston College arrived in Spain to undertake the challenge of walking 165km to Santiago de Compostela along the Camino Frances.
The walk began from O’Cebreiro early on Friday 11th in the cool, misty hills of Galicia in Northern Spain. That day the students saw beautiful scenery and well-earned views after a number of steep and arduous up-hill climbs. On arrival into Triacastela, everyone settled into the dormitory, freshened up, did some laundry, checked and managed their blisters, and explored the town. Dinner that evening was the wonderful creation of the boys themselves.
Each day followed a similar pattern. The weather was glorious and the students took every opportunity to get a tan. Some of the highlights of the days included the wide variety of wonderful pilgrims they encountered along the way. The Gormanston boys made a great impression on everyone they met. People of all ages and nationalities complimented the boys on their kindness, friendliness and courage on the Camino. The spirit in which each student undertook the walk was admirable. They were sociable, mature and very considerate of others. They made the trip most enjoyable and worthwhile for the accompanying teachers. The evening meal was also a great opportunity to share stories and have some fun after the hard day’s trekking. Some of the difficulties faced were the physical ones. Blisters, muscle ache and a bit of sunburn made the pilgrimage tough. But the boys never complained or showed any signs of giving up. They remained positive and grateful at all times.
As the students walked the way, they carried an Irish flag. As a wonderful souvenir of the trip, they asked every person they met to sign it and got it stamped in every coffee shop along the way. What a lovely idea. On reaching the Cathedral in Santiago, they stormed into the square full of joy, raising the flag high over their heads. With pride each one received their Certificate or Compostela for their great achievement and then visited the Cathedral to give praise and thanks to God. Each of the boys showed great appreciation for the huge accomplishment they had successfully completed and all are eager to return and travel an extended part of the Camino. Well done to Thomas Keane, Cillian O’Connor Barry, Richard Donnelly Devine, Tristan Parker, Evan Murphy and Luke O’Neill. They are superstars. May they continue to reap the rewards of this journey for many years to come.
Here’s a slideshow of the inspirational students of Franciscan College Gormanston, who walked 165km from O Cebreiro to Santiago de Compostela during the Easter holidays. A full blog report will be posted soon, but here are some photos for now! Well done to those brilliant boys.
It’s been a year since the passing of the most beloved Fr Eamonn Newell OFM. He passed away on the day of the year he claimed to be his favourite – the first day of spring. Memories and thoughts of this wise and inspirational man come flooding back to all those who knew him well. His smile, his clever insights, his shyness, his kindness, his genuine interest in others, his sense of humour, his brilliant teaching, his commitment to Clann Phadraig and his personal generosity are what I remember about him most.
When the other Friars had to leave the Castle in September 2012, Fr Eamonn good-heartedly (and admirably) refused to move. He was known as the ‘King of the Castle’. It is sad and fitting that the Castle was where he passed away. He is buried in a private plot with other Franciscans, past pupils and former staff of the college as well as a number of infants.
Fr Eamonn will always be remembered and loved; we are comforted to know that he is the presence of the Lord.
The national Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration takes place on the Sunday nearest to 27 January every year.
The event honours the memory of all of the victims of the Holocaust: six million Jews as well as over five million other victims, persecuted because of their nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religious beliefs or political affiliations. The inclusion of all of the victim groups is essential to the commemoration, highlighting the importance of education about anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance.
On Sunday 26th January three students from Franciscan College Gormanston took part in the commemoration in the Mansion House, Dublin.
Head Girl and College Prefects
Head Girl – Niamh Kelly-Whyte, and College Prefects – Kate Brennan and Darragh Clarke read out names of Holocaust victims who had any Irish connections. They did the college proud! It was a solemn and dignified occasion leaving the 700 attendees with the message that we should never forget and that we should teach our children so that nothing like this ever happens again.
Participants in the occasion included Alan Shatter (Minister for Justice), Jennifer Johnston (novelist), Tommy Reichental (survivor living in Ireland), Sr Stanislaus Kennedy (founder of Focus Ireland), Brendan O’Connor (RTE presenter). The other schools reading out names were Drimnagh Castle, Fingal Community College and Stratford High School. Gormanston was invited to take part because of Ms Meighan’s connection due to her course in Holocaust Studies this year.
Palliative care is hard work, both physically and psychologically. When caring for a terminally ill patient, what should be included?
Strong drugs and medicine to control the pain
A warm, clean environment
Help given to the patient in adjusting to increased physical disability
Care that treats the patient as a real person, not just a medical problem
The World Health Organisation says that ‘palliative care affirms life and regards dying as a normal process; it neither hastens nor postpones death; it provides relief from pain and suffering; it integrates the the psychological aspects of the patient.’
Palliative care is physical, emotional and spiritual care for a dying person when a cure is not possible. It should be enough to prevent any person from contemplating euthanasia.St Francis’ Hospice in Raheny and Blanchardstown provides an excellent service of palliative care. It is a voluntary organisation under the care of the Daughters of Charity and St Vincent de Paul.You can find out more about their caring work here.