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Interrupted plans

30 November, 1999

Justin Kilcullen, the director of Trocaire, finds time to write about a busy day in his life in February 2006.

8.35 a.m: I’m stuck on the M50 on my way to work in Maynooth. Life in Brussels begins an hour earlier so this is a good opportunity to catch up on my business there. I am on the board of Concord, the confederation of NGOs across the EU representing more than 1,500 such organizations. I phone Olivier, the Secretary General, to discuss the upcoming board meeting. Can we raise the level of political priority for development assistance in the EU given the emphasis on security and counter-terrorism these days?

9.10 a.m. Still not in Maynooth. Call my assistant Frances, to discuss the day’s appointments.

9.25 a.m. Arrive at my desk. Read the morning prayer of the day from Daily Prayers for Busy People: ‘Living God – let me recognize you today when you interrupt what I had planned.’ 

10.00 a.m. The situation in Kashmir continues to be critical. The Emergency team and I meet to discuss our continuing response. We are very fortunate that our American counterpart, Catholic Relief Services, has a long established and experienced team in Pakistan. A Trócaire staff member has just returned. CRS are doing a great job and are able to absorb as much money as we can send them.

We decide to continue our fundraising drive for this emergency and to seek more funding from Irish Aid, the government aid programme. The head of the Emergency unit will visit Pakistan and Afghanistan in two weeks time and will follow up on these initiatives.

11.05 a.m. Lent is soon approaching and final arrangements are being made for this year’s Lenten Campaign. The Lenten team meet to discuss the itinerary of our main visitor this year, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Honduras. The Cardinal is very high profile – he featured on all the lists of papabile before last year’s papal election. We expect a lot of interest in his visit. TV3 are already looking for him for their breakfast show.

The cardinal will visit four dioceses during his four-day visit and will deliver the annual Trócaire Lecture in Maynooth on 9 March and in Belfast the following day. We finalize his itinerary and arrangements for the visits to the dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin, Meath, Dublin, and Down and Connor.

12.45 p.m. Meet with Fr. Jayakumar, the head of Caritas Jaffna in Sri Lanka where Trócaire is working with the diocese in rebuilding houses after the Tsunami. Fr. Jayakumar is very pleased with Trócaire’s assistance.
He explains to us the difficulties that Caritas has faced in advancing the projects, due to government delays in finalizing building guidelines and now the deteriorating security situation as the civil war is resumed. For nearly a year the shock of Tsunami and the need to cooperate has brought about an uneasy peace between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels, but now the situation is reverting to what it was before the disaster. We have lunch with Fr. Jayakumar.

2.15 p.m. My boss, Bishop John Kirby, Chairman of Trocaire, calls. He has received an invitation to
attend a conference in the Vatican on charity, The Greatest of these is Love. So also have I. This conference is related to the forthcoming papal encyclical, which is to be called Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). We decide that Trócaire should be present and that I should attend in my role as consultor (advisor) to the Pontifical Council, Cor Unum, which is organizing the event. We discuss a number of other items relating to our upcoming Executive Board meeting.

3.00 p.m. Time to read my e-mails (loads of them) – hit the delete button in relation to most of them and reply to the most urgent. Realistically, in a few days I will probably hit the delete button on the rest of them! I could spend all day just answering e-mails.

4.15 p.m. The Strategic Plan – everybody is doing a strategic plan and so is Trócaire! We have had an exhaustive process involving over ninety staff as we plan for the coming five-to-ten-year period. How will Trócaire cope with falling Mass attendance and religious practice? What is the future of the Lenten Campaign? What are the implications of the big increase in government aid to the developing world? How will the rise of China and India affect our work in Africa and elsewhere? Is global warming now the biggest threat to development and what could Trócaire do about it? These are some of the major issues Trócaire faces as it prepares for the future. 

5.15 p.m. I have planned to finish my day by writing this article for the Sacred Heart Messenger when a phone call comes from an old friend with whom I worked in Tanzania in the 1970s. We have not met in years, although we have been in email contact. She is coming unexpectedly to Ireland would I be free to meet her? Dorothy and her late husband were Baptist missionaries in Tanzania and she still lives and works there. They were – and are an extraordinary couple and were a real influence on me in my younger days; a real gift from God. Of course I will be free to be meet her when she comes and introduce her to my family.

Thank you God for interrupting what I had planned. 

This article first appeared in The Messenger (January 2007), a publication of the Irish Jesuits.