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“They lifted my horizons” by Fr Graeme F Bell

I was fortunate to attend St Michael's from 1986 to 1992. I remember my first day and all my school days pretty well. On the first day we were reminded of our duties and obligations as pupils of the school and there was a great emphasis on the fact that St Michael's was a Catholic school.

I suppose I did think about the priesthood then but I still played a lot of football and my mind was on getting Paddy Bonner's no 1 shirt off him instead of the Lord's altar. Recently I visited an aged house-bound lady who happens to be Pat Bonner's Aunt. There is a picture of the former Celtic and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper greeting the Holy Father John Paul II in her living room when the Republic of Ireland played Italy. I remarked to the lady that my hero was in the picture and she said, “Yes the Pope will be sadly missed.” I just kept my thoughts to myself and my skint knees. I was thinking more of Paddy, then I thought of the dives and great saves I made between the jackets that were put down as goals on the playing fields of St Michael's thinking that one day I could be Pat Bonner!

I never made it as a goalkeeper. I became a Priest on 27th December 2000. Why did I become a priest? Perhaps because of many things. I am sure one reason were the influences I happened to have during my education. It is inevitable that you are conditioned by your background. Such as your faith upbringing in the family. It is often small things that make a difference. I did encounter many dedicated Catholic teachers and non-Catholic teachers. They lifted the horizons of the children they taught. They lifted my horizons, and I am sad to see it all come to an end.

What do I do now? Well, I am a Parish Priest in East Ayrshire. I also help the Catholic Church in Scotland in her legal affairs. In November of last year I was asked to be the Assistant Judicial Vicar at the Scottish National Tribunal. I help people and priests with legal affairs in the Church. I also do what I enjoy the most, that is preaching and proclaiming the Gospel.

I was the School Captain at St Michael's in my last year. At seventeen I went to the Royal Scots College, Salamanca, Spain to train to be a priest. I remember the feeling of being in a foreign land and missing all your friends and acquaintances. Wondering what and how they were doing. When you move away you think people and places stand still, waiting for you to return. They don't but some memories stand still, that's why eternal memories, good memories can never be lost or perished.

I remember people who are no longer here now, John Darroch who was in my class and died in a car crash. I also remember Mr and Mrs McCutcheon who have gone to their heavenly reward.

I have conducted weddings and baptisms for friends from St Michael's. Friends that I hope to have for many years to come. That is because God put us together and asked us to grow in love. And that is my prayer for the new chapter, for the future, to grow in love.

Fr Graeme F. Bell

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