In my early twenties, I had a poster which read “Happiness is often found where we least expect it.” This was one of the prominent themes in an inspiring speech delivered by John Lonergan at Inch Community Centre recently.
John Lonergan is the former governor of Mountjoy prison and author of the memoir entitled “The Governor.” During his career in Mountjoy prison, Mr. Lonergan has cultivated a philosophy of leadership based on compassion and respect for the dignity of the human person.
In the recently refurbished community hall at Inch, he spoke eloquently of the seminal role of community involvement in creating a more just and caring society. “People never forget acts of kindness,” said Mr. Lonergan. We should be asking ourselves if there are people in our communities who need a helping hand, a kind word, a smile, even. Are there people who are sick or lonely or marginalised for whatever reason? Little things mean a lot for ”it is in giving that we receive”. The dignity of the human person should be the cornerstone of our society. It’s time the economy worked for the people rather than the other way round.”
When it comes to the role of parents, according to Mr. Lonergan, encouragement rather than criticism is crucial in child development. ”Mol an Oige agus tiocfaidh sí” as the Irish saying goes. Dressed impeccibly in a blazer, trousers and coordintating shirt and tie, his cufflinks glinted in the light. But it was nothing compared to the inner sparkle that radiated from this impressive man, a sparkle that comes from within and settled to rest in the warmth of his smile. He spoke humorously of the child who comes home from school and tells his mother he got 19 out of 20 in his spelling test. What does the typical Irish mother say? “What one did you get wrong?” the hall filled with laughter. According to John Lonergan you should tell your child he’s a genius becaue it is the nature of the human person to aspire to the expectations of those closest to him. “Our aspirations are our possibilities.”
We, the parishoners of Inch, were hugely privileged to have had such an inspiring visitor in our midst. Thanks, especially, to the organizers of this event and thanks, especially, to the post-graduate student, Ciara Younge, from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick who discovered in the course of research for her Master’s degree that Inch had the highest ratio of voluntary involvement in North Tipperary. A tremendous accolade for such a small area.
What better way to conclude than in the words of St. Augustine, quoted by our priest, Rev. Fr. Martin Murphy, “There but for the grace of God go I”.