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

Bonnie and Ken Fletcher’s annual Christmas lights display, complete with animated, inflated and hand-painted treasures, and more. (File photo)
South Surrey Rudolph & Friends display to light up this weekend

Scaled-back effort, ‘aiming to bring happiness’ despite pandemic

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
South Surrey woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Deb Antifaev

Tom Jackson and bassist Kirby Barber in a trailer for "The Huron Carole," from video posted to youtube.com.
Tom Jackson’s ‘Huron Carole’ concert in White Rock goes virtual to feed hungry Canadians

Surrey broadcast date of Blue Frog-recorded show is Friday, Dec. 11, to benefit Surrey Food Bank

Fentanyl test strips are designed to work in seconds and give a person a negative or positive sign that fentanyl is present in a substance. It also works with other analogues such as carfentanil. (Photo: ASHLEY WADHWANI)
21 people died of overdoses in Surrey in October

Provincewide, more than five people died a day from overdoses

Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis and her dog Randi (foreground) bring toy donations to Saverio Lattanzio of Surrey Firefighters Association (holding toy) and fellow firefighters. (submitted photo: Pace Group)
Firefighters’ ‘Drive-by toy drive’ for Surrey Christmas Bureau, as SuperChefs cooks up kits

‘It’s been a particularly tough year for so many of our Surrey families’

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

Most Read