A PRIEST who became known around the world during the loyalist protests at Holy Cross school in Belfast has returned to Northern Ireland to lead a retreat in Derry.
Fr Aidan Troy will spend the next few days in Long Tower parish for the retreat focusing on baptism and reconciliation.
The Wicklow-born cleric, who is based at the English-speaking St Joseph's Church in Paris, said that as a young priest he was once part of a retreat team who visited St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry.
"I still recall the great closing ceremonies," he said.
"Pastoral co-ordinator Emmet Thompson invited me to Long Tower for a retreat in Lent 2018, but I was unable to accept.
"After Easter last year, he invited me for Lent 2019. With that amount of notice, I could hardly refuse."
Fr Troy arrived at Holy Cross parish in 2001 as the primary school made global headlines when loyalists protested against Catholic schoolgirls walking through their area.
He later went on to write the book, 'Holy Cross – A Personal Experience'.
"The seven years at Holy Cross have had a great effect on my life both personally and in ministry," he said.
"I would not have missed them for anything and I thank God for giving me the privilege to serve there in both difficult and many pleasant times.
"Holy Cross taught me that there is no substitute to talking and listening if conflict is to be resolved.
"The attacks in Paris in 2015 and the present 'Gilets Jaunes' protests remind me of what I learnt there."
Fr Troy encouraged people to set aside some time to attend the retreat, which began yesterday, in preparation for Easter, even if they have not attended Church recently.
"Everyone will be blessed in a different way by the prayer, sacraments and reflections of the retreat," he said.
"For some, it may be a time to seek peace of conscience with God or to pray for some family member or other intention. The power of people coming together to pray and to share, is greater than my own solitary efforts."
Fr Aidan Mullan from Long Tower parish said: "Our theme this year is renewal through the sacraments, focusing on the healing power of the Church's sacraments.
"During the time our parish community will have time to reflect on how we can reinvigorate our baptismal promises this Lent."