By: Gary Howley SPS
Rev Damian George Martell was ordained a priest for St Patrick's Missionary Society by Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen Diocese at St Mary's Church, Nairn on Saturday, 7 July. It was the first ordination ceremony in the parish and the parish priest, Fr Frank Barnett, SJ and the parish communities of Nairn and Forres were delighted to host the event. Fr Semus O,Neill, Superior General of St Patrick's Missionary Society attended along with ten Society priests who work in Kenya, Nigeria, Brazil, Scotland, England and Ireland. "I am very happy," said Fr Damian. "I have been preparing for this day for a long time." Fr Damian was born in England and the family moved to Forres, Scotland from Henlow, Bedfordshire, when he was a boy. He did his secondary schooling at Forres Academy. He went to Glasgow University in 1987 and during the following four years earned an MA Honours degree majoring in politics. He then went to St Andrew's, Bearsden, the national Catholic Teaching College in Glasgow, where he got his Catholic Teaching Certificate studying a course in Modern Studies, which included British politics and social issues and international studies including African and Latin American politics. He taught at Northfield Academy, Aberdeen and Old Machar Academy, Aberdeen. Damian loved teaching and was always aware of its pastoral role. He came to believe that as a priest he could help young people in a way he couldn't as a teacher. So, in 1998, after five years teaching, he began studies as a student in St Patrick,s Missionary Society. By now the Society was recruiting students in Africa and Latin America and Damian went to study philosophy in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa and then to study theology in Nairobi, Kenya. He is the fifth member of his class to be ordained this year. His classmates include two Kenyans and two Nigerians. His mother, Christina, was born in Dublin, Ireland. His father, John, was born in England. He was a Warrant Officer with the RAF and, sadly, died last year. Fr Damian is the youngest of the family. His sisters are nurses: Siobhan is a school nurse while Fiona is a health visitor. His brother Sean is a police officer. His parents and siblings have been very supportive of Damian in his desire to be a priest and during the long period of preparation. At the reception following the ordination ceremony his brother, Sean, said: "I would like to say on behalf of the family how immensely proud we are, Damian. The life you have chosen will, I am sure, be incredibly demanding. People will look to you for support, empathy and leadership and this will, at times, place you under incredible pressure and test your resolve; it will at other times bring rewards that few people experience." Fr Damian was ordained for a missionary society that was founded in Ireland in1932 and its priests work in Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean. This year St Patrick\s Missionary, also known as the Kiltegan Fathers, celebrates its 75th anniversary and Fr Damian and his four classmates join the more than three hundred priests of the Society. His classmates have the distinction of being the first African members of the Society. At present, there are sixty students preparing for the priesthood as members of the Society in different parts of Africa. Fr Damian celebrated his First Mass in St Mary's, Nairn on Sunday. He has been appointed to East Africa and will work in Kenya after he finishes a well-deserved holiday at home with his family and friends.