From chaos to love, White Rock’s newest priest to spread message of hope

Rev. Patrick John O’Maoil Mheana to start work at Church of the Holy Trinity Nov. 30

Reverend Patrick John (PJ) O’Maoil Mheana, ordained as Father Luke, has been named the new rector for the Church of the Holy Trinity in White Rock. (Contributed photo)

Reverend Patrick John (PJ) O’Maoil Mheana, ordained as Father Luke, has been named the new rector for the Church of the Holy Trinity in White Rock. (Contributed photo)

He had a front-row seat to the theatre of war, was an eye-witness to the consequences of hate, and now, after 25 years of carnage and chaos, he has come to White Rock to spread a message of faith, hope and love.

Rev. Patrick John (PJ) O’Maoil Mheana, ordained as Father Luke, is currently sitting in what he described as a 14-day “monastic isolation” at the White Rock’s Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity rectory.

O’Maoil Mheana, who landed in Canada from Scotland on Monday, was named the new rector, or priest in charge, of the church.

O’Maoil Mheana, born in Ireland, has a long history of helping people in the most dire of circumstances. He worked in a hospice in London U.K., during what turned out to be the deadliest years of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Following that, he enlisted in the Royal Navy and Royal Army, where he served 25 years collectively.

In the armed forces, O’Maoil Mheana was nurse-in-charge of preoperative care. It was his job, on deployments, to care for the wounded. His career took him to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands.

A video of O’Maoil Mheana, speaking at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, gives a glimpse of what he experienced during his 25 years of service.

“The language of hate is not something we find comfortable,” O’Maoil Mheana said, speaking to the parishioners.

“Speaking as one who over 25 years dealt with the consequences of hate, I am certainly not comfortable with it. Hate has led to being stood knee deep in bodies in a mass grave in Bosnia. Hate leads to being blown across the road by a secondary bomb while treating causalities. Hate leads to being stood at an operating table months after months with a sea of trauma in front of you, and that is wrong. This is not the language which I, myself, am able to accept.”

In an interview with Peace Arch News this week, O’Maoil Mheana agreed that he has seen worst humanity has to offer.

And as traumatic as the experiences may have been, O’Maoil Mheana said there was one constant throughout the years – a presence of God.

“I spent 25 years caring for people in the worst of situations. You have to see the hand of God in it,” O’Maoil Mheana said. “Where God is, is in the hand of the surgeon, in the hand of the nurse, in the hand of the X-ray tech, who are working to save that young man or woman’s life. That’s where the act of God is, the holding and love.

“I could not have done what I did for 25 years had I not had the foundation of faith beforehand… But subsequent to that, I have to say that I couldn’t be the priest I am today, and would wish to be in the future, had I not had 25 years of doing what I did.”

O’Maoil Mheana offered a story of a miracle of God while he was deployed in Afghanistan. He had trouble recalling if it happened on his second, or third deployment to the war-torn country.

He said his base camp’s commanding officer had an knack for photography, and sometimes documented the life on the base. O’Maoil Mheana recalls an evening when surgeons were operating throughout out the night, and the commanding officer took photographs of the work.

Later, the commander showed O’Maoil Mheana a stunning image from the evening.

“It was sublime,” O’Maoil Mheana said, recalling the photograph. “He captured a picture of two of the surgeons working.”

What was striking about the image, O’Maoil Mheana said, was that both surgeons had a look on their face. A look that was all to familiar to O’Maoil Mheana.

“He captured the moment when they were concentrating. They were working, yes, but the concentration on their faces was a concentration of prayer. And it was just… it blew me away,” O’Maoil Mheana said. “It was just the most amazing… In dealing with the chaos and carnage of war – and we had to deal with the chaos and carnage of war – they were working, but the intensity on their faces, they were praying.”

While surrounded by chaos, O’Maoil Mheana said there have only been a few times that he was struck by fear.

“The four times in my life when I have been truly frightened is when I couldn’t find the presence of God. And that’s a scary place,” he said.

Following his military service, O’Maoil Mheana began exploring a return to religious life. When he was younger, he worked as a missionary in Africa during famine.

He was accepted for training in the Church of England before going to the College of Resurrection in Mirifield, West Yorkshire. He was ordained in 2012 and took the name Father Luke. He most recently served as rector of Monklands in Airdrie, Scotland, a position he held since 2017.

Holy Trinity began searching for a new rector in 2018 after the retirement of Rev. Neil Gray, who served as rector for 15 years.

Holy Trinity parish council member Simon Johnston said finding a new rector is similar to that of an art gallery hiring a new art director. Not only does the incoming director have a leadership responsibility, but they bring with them a new vision.

O’Maoil Mheana said he takes a Benedictine approach, in that there are three tables: a table of work, a table of worship, and a table in which people are welcomed.

“That’s about providing a space where people can feel included and welcomed and know that they will be accepted for who and what they are.”

SEE ALSO: Holy Trinity looks to ‘bright future’ at 90

Asked about the LGBT+ community, O’Maoil Mheana was unapologetic in his support.

“I don’t, as a priest, have the right to exclude anyone. This is an inclusive setting,” he said. “Jesus’ whole mission was to include, it was not to exclude.”

The process of hiring a new priest in the Anglican world is complex and can be lengthy.

In Anglican tradition, the search is co-ordinated by the parish ‘Canonical Search Committee’ in association with an interim priest and diocesan guidance. The first step of the committee is to create a “Parish Profile,” which is a document that outlines what the parish is looking for in a new rector. The document is posted by the executive archdeacon’s office and priests apply for the position.

The Holy Trinity position sat vacant for more than a year while the church waited for a suitable fit.

Father Luke was to be installed at the Church of the Holy Trinity on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. However, the ceremony was cancelled due to the current provincial health orders.

However, Nov. 30 is around the same time when O’Maoil Mheana will complete his mandatory 14-day quarantine. It’ll be his first opportunity to emerge from the rectory and explore his new community. He said he’ll do so by bicycle.

It will surely be a quick lesson in not only the beauty of White Rock, but how hilly it can be.



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Religionwhite rock

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Those who walk by the welcome figure often touch hands with it. (Screenshot/Jessica Poirier)
‘A presence in the school’: The story behind Hope Secondary’s welcome figure

After a year’s worth of delays due to COVID, the welcome figure… Continue reading

Environment Canada says the Eastern Fraser Valley will enjoy plenty of sunshine this week. (Black Press News File)
Sunny weather to stay around all week in Eastern Fraser Valley

Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Hope all forecasted for a week free of rainfall

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld has called for the resignation of B.C.’s Minister of Education, Jennifer Whiteside. He made the call during a speech in Vancouver on April 10, 2021, in a rally for a parent embroiled in legal battles surrounding his child’s transition.
Chilliwack school trustee calls for B.C.’s minister of education to resign

Barry Neufeld spoke at rally for jailed father in Vancouver, calling SOGI 123 a ‘dangerous experiment’

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
1 taken to hospital after plane crash at Metro Vancouver airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

Most Read