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

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on BC highways – check point at Manning Park

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

Integrated Homicide Investigation Team Sgt. Frank Jang said outside of Langley Sportsplex at 91a Ave and 200 Street after a man was fatally shot in April 2021. (Black Press Media file)
LETTER: Casual drug users have link to gang killings, says Langley letter writer

The Lower Mainland is in the midst of another gang war and the illicit drug market is part of it

Dr. Bonnie Henry B.C.’s provincial health officer, updates the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
BREAKING: Willoughby added to list of high-transmission COVID zones

Anyone 30 and over in the area can now register for a vaccine

RCMP were called to collision in the area of 200th Street and 44th Avenue on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 around 4:30 p.m. (Anngela Bayer/Special to Langley Advance Times)
PHOTOS: Langley RCMP called to crash after car turns in front of Jeep

The incident happened on Tuesday and resulted in minor injuries

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Serious crash in Surrey sends 1 to hospital

Surrey RCMP say one of the drivers fled on foot, but was later found at an area hospital

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

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

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read