Fr. Francis enjoying his new role as Buncrana parish priest
Smiling Fr. Francis Bradley says he is loving his new life in Buncrana, where he intends to welcome as many people as possible into the warmth of the Church.
Aged just 44-years-old, he is not just the youngest parish priest in Inishowen but the youngest in the entire Diocese of Derry.
As a fan of ‘Coldplay’ and gritty RTE drama ‘Love/Hate’, Fr. Francis probably isn’t a typical Catholic cleric.
“I’m not old and crabbit yet; so people might find it difficult to accept me as parish priest for a while,” he joked.
He confesses to knowing very little about his new home in Inishowen but is looking forward to the challenge nonetheless.
“I don’t really know Inishowen at all. I know the ecclesiastical geography of the place but I don’t know the people of Inishowen yet, let alone the people of Buncrana.”
“So far, I like what I see though. There is a nice mixture of town and country here and I love the pace of life,” Fr. Bradley said.
He says he is also heartened by the ‘amazing number’ of people who regularly attend Mass in Buncrana.
The eldest child of Mickey and Eileen [née Carlin] Bradley, Fr. Francis has four sisters. He grew up on a farm in the small parish of Gortin, nestled in the Sperrin Mountains, where he eventually decided to become a priest in his late teens.
“I first had a notion of being a priest at a very young age but then it came back to me very strongly when I was about 16 or 17. I suppose the idea of being a priest was always something that stayed with me in the background.”
Ordained in 1996, Fr. Francis came from a strongly Catholic household, one typical of his parish.
“The whole community at home had a strong faith,” he said.
His decision was influenced too by other clerics who had come from the area. Ironically Fr. Francis comes from the same townland, Aughnamerrigan, as Fr. James McGlinchey, who was a curate for many years at Desertegney before his retirement in 2000.
“By the time I was ordained I think I may have been the ninth priest ordained in the last one hundred years of my townland, which only has about 14 houses.”
“The earliest priest I remember is Fr. James McGonagle, who is now the parish priest at Bocan. He served as a curate at home when I was a child; he was a big influence on me.”
In his days off, Fr. Francis still works on the farm at home. As an only son, he is happy to help his father, whom he refers to as ‘director of operations’.
Was it the right decision to join the priesthood?
“Yes. Absolutely,” he says assuredly.
“I’ve never regretted it. We have tough days like everyone else but you make little of those. I remember reading a quote once that said – if you find a job you like then you’ll never have to work a day in your life – and that’s how I feel,” Fr. Francis added.
“Sometimes we have very difficult things to do – and I’ve had my own challenges during 18 years in the priesthood – but doesn’t everyone? We can’t view life simply through those difficult moments, there are lots of great moments too.”
“At some level you make a sacrifice in becoming a priest but the benefits that come your way far outweigh the sacrifice. It’s like falling in love with someone; if you are deeply in love with them then no sacrifice will be too great a burden.”
To read the rest of Fr. Bradley’s Interview click here.