Northern Ireland news

North Belfast man temporarily sets aside priesthood training to return to front line as doctor

Brother Chris Gault has returned to help out at the Mater Hospital in north Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Marie Louise McConville

A Belfast man who has been studying for the priesthood for the past two years donned scrubs yesterday to return to the front line as a doctor to help in the fight against Covid-19.

Brother Chris Gault, who is originally from the Antrim Road, returned to the nearby Mater Hospital where he was once a junior doctor.

Having graduated from Queen's University in 2013, and then completed foundation training, the 30-year-old had left this life behind when he decided to answer a call to enter the priesthood.

He joined the Dominican Order, making a profession of vows in 2018, and moved to Dublin to study philosophy as part of his training.

However, when he heard calls for any available medics to return to the front line to help in the fight against coronavirus, he decided he had to help.

"I talked to my superiors and they were happy and encouraging," he said.

Chris Gault has temporarily left his priesthood training to return to the front line at the Mater Hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic

"I just volunteered. The trust and the health service is undergoing a lot of change. They are adapting to a lot of change in these current circumstances.

"I never wavered and once the backing came, I was happy to go for it.

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"My skills are quite limited in comparison to a lot of my colleagues who I met today and were so welcoming. They have been on the front line now, their training is better than mine.

"I will be looking to support them. They are true heroes. I have a great admiration for them."

The north Belfast man said it was "pretty strange" being back in scrubs yesterday.

Brother Chris Gault from the Dominican Fathers who hung up his habit for surgical scrubs to work on the frontline at the Mater Hospital in north Belfast Picture Mal McCann.

"It comes back to you," he said.

"It is rusty so I am very much in a support position until I get back up to speed and I can help in a more concrete way.

"A lot of people are on the front line ready to help. If my message could be anything, it would be one of hope.

"Staff here are committed to beating this thing and they are committed with the help of God. I have no doubt that there is great hope."

He added: "Ideally, none of this would be happening.

"This is a response according to need, not my desire. I would rather be living my religious life in my monastery praying with my brothers and studying but this was a response at a time of need.

"It is extraordinary and it is temporary. While it is needed, I am here to help."

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