Peter Scally SJ
I am currently the Senior Chaplain at Manchester Universities' Catholic Chaplaincy and prior to that was Parish Priest at the Sacred Heart Church in Edinburgh where I was also chaplain at the local Catholic high school. Broadly speaking, “ministry of the Word” is the main focus of the work I do – preaching at Mass, hearing confessions and all manner of other, less formal, one-to-one conversations with people seeking advice or support. But that covers a broad range of activity – one recent day included a gathering of local clergy of different denominations to raise issues of common concern, a meeting of our Jesuit community to discuss the running of the house, preaching at Mass on Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem and being interviewed for a Channel 4 documentary about my views on a nearby lap-dancing club.
I was twenty-six when I joined the Jesuits. Although I was baptised as a child, I wasn’t raised a Catholic, and spent my teenage years professing atheism and much more interested in politics than in faith. It wasn’t until I went to university, after a year out spent partly in India and Pakistan, that I began to explore these questions again for myself. I began dipping my toe in the water at the local church. It was partly the music that drew me in. Eventually I asked to be confirmed and I was invited to attend the “Monday night talks” for the RCIA group, which were given by a Jesuit, Fr Rory Geoghegan. I was impressed by the insights he offered into the gospels, and he offered to give me spiritual direction. He taught me to pray in a way I had not known before, and as I got to know more about the Jesuits I felt there was a body of men here who were uniting what for me was a newly-rediscovered faith with the desire to build a better world that had motivated me ever since my teenage years - a “faith that does justice”. But it took me five years to make the final decision to apply to join.
After two years novitiate in Birmingham I was sent to Dublin to study Philosophy and Theology, and stayed on to do what we call “regency” – two years of full-time work – which for me was at the Irish Jesuits’ Communication Centre. There I helped to launch a prayer web site, “Sacred Space”, which was an early experiment in the field of spirituality on the web. I was ordained back in Sheffield in 2002, spending the next two years as assistant priest in our parish in Southall, west London.
Following this I is was asked to set up Jesuit Media Initiatives, which made further forays into the world of the web with the prayer podcast, Pray-as-you-go, and the online journal, Thinking Faith. After Tertianship in Australia in 2009 I was sent to Edinburgh to help in the parish and was lucky enough to be appointed Parish Priest in 2011.