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Reverend Caroline Morrow....believing in the Power of Prayer

Feature by Catherine Gilmartin 

I’VE always thought of Caroline Morrow as the epitome of a big fish in a small bowl, the life and soul of the party and she is so well known for her fun-loving personality. To say the people in her hometown of Ballina were surprised at her decision to become a woman of the cloth is an understatement. 



However, Caroline says: “I have always had a deep faith – people may assume I’m a bit of a lunatic but my interest in the Church has always been a very serious one. People that know me, know I have a very deep faith, but I’m not a bible basher, I’m no Holy Joe!” Caroline says her job is to look after people and be there for them. “I love my work and want to be an ear for people who want to talk. Last Sunday, 26th September, I had my first Eucharist service after being ordained a priest and I can tell you the responsibility that comes with that is tremendous. The seriousness of the whole sacrament of communion is huge. To see and meet all those people, after my 10 am Eucharist service, was so humbling and I feel so grateful to my family and friends for giving me their support.” For those of you who are interested in attending any of the services, the Service of Holy Communion is held on the 1st Sunday of the month and the other Sunday mornings it is Morning Prayer - all services are at 10 am. 

It all started in 2015, Caroline says, when the now Archdeacon of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, Venerable Stephen McWhirter, spoke at his institution in St. Michael’s Church as Rector that evening. He spoke to the congregation about being called to the ministry and Caroline says: “Something just touched me deep inside and stayed with me. I never dreamt I would be involved in the Clergy - I was so busy already, and belonged to many clubs, including drama, in the town.”

 She certainly was and as many readers will know she is an excellent actor and has given us much entertainment. In 2017 the parish was looking for readers and Caroline was approached and asked if she was interested. “I agreed and began to assist at morning prayers. I was then asked to go forward and assist in the Eucharist, which is a service held the first Sunday of each month. This led on to training and in 2017 I received a licence to do this regularly in Killanley Church, which is on the Quay road, between Ballina and Enniscrone. 

In 2018 I was asked if I would like to join the OLM programme (Ordained Local Ministry). I’d never heard of it before and when I thought about it and looked into it I decided I did want to go ahead.” This OLM programme is a new development in the Church of Ireland. It is an ordained ministry. OLMs are deacons and priests in the fullest sense of the word. it is a local ministry, exercised in a parish/group of parishes. It is a pastoral and liturgical ministry overseen by a stipendary priest. It is team ministry. 

“There are still people who don’t agree with women Clergy and often when I am with colleagues people automatically call them Father when they see the collar. When they see me they don’t know what to call me – mother?” (She laughs in that infectious way she has). “People who know me just call me Caroline – if I am with members of the clergy and the team then people call me Reverend. I don’t want to be put on a pedestal and don’t expect it – the use of my title is respect for the office I hold.” Caroline feels there is no difference between religions: “We are all Christians at the end of the day and we all believe in the one God, there are only small differences.” 

It is now 30 years since the first woman was ordained into the Church of Ireland: “We celebrated this landmark in 2020. Since the ordination of the first woman minister, at least 1 in 5 serving clergy are women.” Caroline says that we have a very strong ecumenical bond with other Churches, especially in this town. Our huge connection has led to the formation of “Ballina Churches Together”, made up of the Roman Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches and Bishop John Fleming, alongside Bishop Patrick Rooke and Noelene Cummins, are the trustees of this group. “These four churches are all working together to look after those less fortunate in society. “It was set up many years ago and in 2018 we launched the ‘Big Blue Bus’, which travels to the estates in and around the town. It is run by Marian Edwards and a team of helpers and it’s a fantastic theoretical group. Marian plays games with the kids, it’s all scripture based; but Marion makes religion more appealing and fun for them.” Caroline adds that before COVID, when they used to park up their bus outside Penneys, or somewhere in the town, a lot of men would come over to chat and have a cuppa – they were lonely. “Marion Edwards, the leader, still goes out meeting people and will buy them a cup of tea – we don’t have the same reservations as maybe others would.”

She admits she is only human and does not think of herself as important, she is just a vessel for God to speak to the people. On forgiveness of sins, she shares these thoughts. “If there is no evidence of repentance, it can sometimes be impossible to forgive. We acknowledge that we are not saints, but our confusion must not turn to hatred, and the ultimate judgement is God’s. God’s forgiveness is there for us when we are honestly struggling with our own inability to forgive others, and praying for the grace to do so.” For people who say how can there be a God when this or that happens, Caroline says: “God didn’t give us COVID, God didn’t cause illness or accidents. When I lost my brother in 1985 in a tractor accident I didn’t blame God, it’s just something that happened.” For Caroline her values are simple: “I believe in the power of prayer and acceptance.” She truly believes that God forgives all those that come to him. She also insists she is just a normal wife and mother and always makes sure she has time for her husband and family. “Our son lives in New Zealand and our daughter is at present working from home due to Covid restrictions. Our home life is our home life and I still sit down and enjoy escapism on TV, i.e. Goggle Box! I enjoy gardening and reading. I go out with my girlfriends and I enjoy my life; but my work is a huge part of my life. It was a very tough training regime but I stuck at it - sheer determination and power of prayer. I said to myself I can do this.” Finally she says: “Women are taking over the world! We can wear many hats, we are still expected to run the house and do our jobs but men only do one job!!” Women are great multi-taskers!!!! “I work with a great team of readers and clergy, we are always looking for readers; if anyone is interested, give us a shout. Our doors are always open to everyone, whatever faith you are; we do not distinguish between anyone, you are always welcome.” “Everyone is welcome to come and join us at the Table.” You can contact Caroline on 087-2053996