St Eugene’s Cathedral
Francis Street, Derry
BT48 9AP | Tel: 028 7126 2302
ORDAINED a Deacon for the Derry Diocese earlier this month, on the Feast of the Epiphany of The Lord, Cappagh parishioner, Stephen Ward took time out from his ministry in the Waterside Parish to reflect on his vocation story.
The 37-year-old is the eldest of two children born to Patricia and the late Paul Ward, of Killyclogher, and while they played an important role in his faith life, it is the example of his grandparents' faith, particularly his maternal grandparents, that had the greatest influence on him as a child. "My late granny, Annie McMahon, suffered from osteoporosis and arthritis," recalled Stephen, "and I remember her hands being swollen up like balloons, particularly in the summer time, with bandages around them and her still holding her beads and praying the Rosary.
"I also remember my aunts and uncles, and both my parents, on their knees praying the Rosary. My parents, particularly when my sister Nicole and I were younger, would have said prayers with us before bed-time and read stories to us from the Bible."
"However, in later years, I didn't really care much about faith," he added, "I went through the typical teenage rebellion, which was surprising because I would have attended the Five-Day Club, which was an Evangelical Christian youth group that came to the park where I lived, as well as other residential areas. They sat in the green and sang hymns and Gospel songs. So, I was drawn to something."
Stephen attended St Mary's PS, Killyclogher, and then the Christian Brothers' School in Omagh, before going on to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown Campus, and graduating in 2008.
He remarked: "There definitely wasn't much in the way of praying or God at that stage in my life." Unemployed for two years after graduating, Stephen then worked for the insurance company, Allstate, for six-and-a-half years, after which he entered the seminary in 2016, having come back to the practise of the Catholic faith some nine years previous.
Recalling his first thoughts of priesthood, he said: "When I was younger, I was always curious about priesthood, though I probably wasn't actually thinking of being one. When I was very small, I couldn't have told you what was happening at Mass, but I was drawn to what the priest was doing.
"The thought of priesthood really first came to me around 2007. My dad had done his Cursillo weekend that year and
he came home a completely different person, for the better in every way. This began a bit of soul searching in myself. What I saw in my dad was that he had found a profound relationship with Jesus and I wanted that. The only way I
can describe it is that there was a God-shaped hole in my life. I was yearning for Him, not realising that it was actually the other way around; that God was searching for me.
While I had been suspicious of my dad's conversion at first, I realised... Read all of Stephen's story on the Diocese of Derry monthy magazine 'The Net'