Northern Ireland news

First humanist pastoral carer has been appointed to a rugby team in Northern Ireland

Ciarán McWilliams

THE first humanist pastoral carer has been appointed to a rugby team in Northern Ireland.

Ciarán McWilliams will provide `emotional and spiritual' support to players, coaches, and fans at Ophir Rugby Football Club which has been moving from Mallusk to a Ulster University partnership in Jordanstown.

Ophir positions itself as one of the few secular clubs in Northern Ireland and works to promote "inclusion and diversity" in the game.

The Azlans - the region's first predominantly gay team - joined the club in 2018 and Ophir launched a girls' and women's section last year.

Mr McWilliams trained as a humanist pastoral carer in 2018, after receiving support himself while in hospital.

He is now the pastoral care lead for Northern Ireland Humanists and Northern Ireland Coordinator for the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network.

He is also part of the first team to provide humanist care in Maghaberry Prison.

His work with the club will involve regular visits to training sessions and matches for all club sections and also providing support away from club facilities.

"It is a wonderful honour to be asked to support the rugby club I love in this way," he said.

"I've been a member of Ophir RFC for over 30 years as a player, referee, coach, youth convenor, and committee member.

"In the last three years, as youth coach and convenor I've needed to use my pastoral care experience and training many times.

"Each time the interactions were unique and it was clear that a role offering emotional support was needed at the club."

Club chairman Will Lucas, Chairman of Ophir RFC said "our growth and inclusivity is something we are proud of at Ophir".

"We really have created a community feel at the club and with that in mind we are excited that Ciarán McWilliams will be taking the lead in providing that community and its members with emotional support and helping look after the wellbeing of our club."

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