Faith Matters

'Let us overcome evil with good'

The link between Mother Teresa and Corpus Christi parish in Belfast has been commemorated in a new shrine which also remembers the tragedies of the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Whiterock massacres, writes Fr Patrick McCafferty

A shrine to Mother Teresa and those killed in the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Westrock Massacres has been blessed in Corpus Christi parish. Picture by Gerd Curley

TEENAGER David McCafferty was a great friend to Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity when they came to Belfast in the early 1970s and lived at 123 Springhill Avenue in Corpus Christi parish.

The 15-year-old became very attached to Mother Teresa and the sisters and would call regularly to see if they needed help with any tasks or if he could help with any errands.

David's father Davey, who is now aged 90, recalls one occasion when he had set aside a number of tins of paint for a job he needed to do at his own house.

But after a few days, when he went to look for his paint, it was gone.

The whereabouts of the missing paint was soon solved when David arrived home, covered in paint from head to foot.

David explained how Mother Teresa had said she needed something painted... and he knew where to find some paint.

"Whatever it was that needed painted, most of the paint ended up on David," said Mr McCafferty, reflecting on the memory.

"He was a good wee boy and he was never any trouble," was how Mr McCafferty summed up his son's too-short 15 years of life.

A shrine to Mother Teresa and those killed in the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Westrock Massacres has been blessed in Corpus Christi parish. Picture by Gerd Curley

On a fateful July 9 1972, a Sunday afternoon, David and a few friends were playing handball.

Gunmen, positioned in a raised location from where they had a bird's-eye view of the people below, began firing indiscriminately on the Springhill and Westrock neighbourhoods of Corpus Christi parish.

Fr Noel Fitzpatrick, accompanied by parishioner Paddy Butler, went to help the injured and to see if any needed the Last Sacraments.

But as they went to aid the wounded, both Fr Fitzpatrick and Mr Butler were cut down by gunfire.

Young David McCafferty, having by now heard the shooting, went to the scene. He ran to the aid of Fr Fitzpatrick and Mr Butler.

He found Mr Butler already dead but Fr Fitzpatrick was still alive and bleeding heavily. As he tried to drag Fr Fitzpatrick to safety, David himself was shot and killed.

The awful events of that summer day in 1972 came to be known as the Springhill-Westrock Massacre.

As he tried to drag Fr Noel Fitzpatrick to safety, David McCafferty himself was shot and killed. The awful events of that summer day in 1972 came to be known as the Springhill-Westrock Massacre 

In the aftermath, the British Army claimed its troops had opened fire after coming under gun attack from the Provisional IRA - a version of events completely contradicted by residents.

In 2014, Attorney General John Larkin directed that new inquests into the killings should be held but these have yet to take place.

Five were slain in the army gunfire: Fr Noel Fitzpatrick; Paddy Butler; and three teenagers - 13-year-old Margaret Gargan, 16-year-old John Dougal and St Teresa of Calcutta's young friend and helper, 15-year-old David McCafferty.

On Friday November 1, Bishop Noel Treanor celebrated All Saints' Day Mass in Corpus Christi parish and blessed a new shrine to St Teresa of Calcutta.

He also placed a first class relic of Mother Teresa, who lived in the parish from 1971 to 1973, in the new shrine.

It was entirely fitting that the relic was carried, in procession to the shrine, by David McCafferty Snr, who is now aged 90.

As well as honouring the Saint of Calcutta, who left a tremendous legacy of love and goodness in the parish, the shrine also serves as a memorial to the victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre in August 1971 as well as the Springhill-Westrock Massacre of July 1972.

The shrine contains a central image of Mother Teresa and her relic and is flanked, on either side, by cameos of the two priests and 14 parishioners slain in the two atrocities.

Also included, surmounting the shrine, is a depiction of the Apparition at Knock. There is deep devotion to Our Lady of Knock in the parish and the vision there can be understood, theologically, as a sign of a heaven's solidarity with the suffering Irish people.

A shrine to Mother Teresa and those killed in the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Westrock Massacres has been blessed in Corpus Christi parish. Picture by Gerd Curley

Finally, at the base of the shrine, there is a representation of both side of the miraculous medal.

This is to acknowledge the dedicated pastoral ministry, for over 40 years, of the Daughters of Charity in Corpus Christi Parish, continued to this day by Sr Kathleen McErlean.

All of the artwork of the shrine is by Belfast artist Paul Morrison, whose work has been featured in such places as 10 Downing Street and events such as the G8 Summit.

Families of the victims of the massacres joined with Bishop Treanor, Bishop Farquhar, clergy and myself as parish priest for the Mass and Blessing on All Saints' Day.

Inspired by the words of Romans 12:21, we say: "Let us be apostles of merciful love, of reconciliation, healing, forgiveness and peace, in our still raw, wounded and traumatised society. Aided by the prayers of St Teresa of Kolkata and of Springhill Avenue, of Fr Mullan, Fr Fitzpatrick and their companions, let us overcome evil with good."

And as St Teresa wrote to the late Fr Des Wilson on July 8 1981: "I pray that we all may grow in the likeness of Christ through love and compassion and so become instruments of peace. Amen"

Fr Patrick McCafferty is parish priest of Corpus Christi, Ballymurphy

A shrine to Mother Teresa and those killed in the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Westrock Massacres has been blessed in Corpus Christi parish. Picture by Gerd Curley

A shrine to Mother Teresa and those killed in the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Westrock Massacres has been blessed in Corpus Christi parish. Picture by Gerd Curley

A shrine to Mother Teresa and those killed in the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Westrock Massacres has been blessed in Corpus Christi parish. Picture by Gerd Curley

A shrine to Mother Teresa and those killed in the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Westrock Massacres has been blessed in Corpus Christi parish. Picture by Gerd Curley

A shrine to Mother Teresa and those killed in the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Westrock Massacres has been blessed in Corpus Christi parish. Picture by Gerd Curley

A shrine to Mother Teresa and those killed in the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Westrock Massacres has been blessed in Corpus Christi parish. Picture by Gerd Curley

A shrine to Mother Teresa and those killed in the Ballymurphy and Springhill-Westrock Massacres has been blessed in Corpus Christi parish. Picture by Gerd Curley

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Faith Matters