One Man, One God. The Peace Ministry of Fr Alec Reid C.Ss.R
by Martin McKeever C.Ss.R.
In Clonard Church, Belfast, on the evening of the 6th of June 2017, the former President of Ireland, Mrs Mary MacAleese, presented this first book on the peace ministry of Fr Alec Reid. Mrs MacAleese was a personal friend of Fr Alec and so was able to bring direct experience to her reflection on the life and work of Fr Alec. In her address Mrs MacAleese insisted on the fact that faith was the driving force behind this commitment to peace. Prompted by his faith, Fr Alec decided that he must actively approach those involved in violence and not simply observe matters at a safe distance. The former President explained that One Man, One God helps us to put together the different phases and various dimensions of this complicated ministry. In particular, she emphasized the importance of the written word in Fr Alec’s work. A large part of his contribution was actively working with the different parties involved (the paramilitaries and the British and Irish Governments) in order to find formulations that were acceptable to all. This involved years and years of patient work, the full cost of which in terms of frustration and disappointment we can only imagine.
After this address the author, Fr Martin McKeever, explained briefly the rather particular nature of this book. While it is not a biography and not another history of the Troubles, it contains a lot of biography and a lot of history. The first and longest section of the book attempts to weave the story of Fr Alec’s work into the complicated political history of the period between 1975 and 2005. It is possible to have Fr Alec’s perspective on these events because of long, transcribed interviews conducted with him by the former Provincial Fr Michael Kelleher. The second part of the book adopts a faith perspective rather than an historical one. It is possible to recount the story of Fr Alec without referring to faith, but it is not possible to understand fully the story without taking his faith into account. The concrete expression of this faith was what he called “compassionate companionship” toward all those suffering as a consequence of the Troubles. The third part of the book contains a series of “Testimonials”, including some given at the funeral of Fr Alec. The final section of the book is a collection of documents written by Fr Alec. Many of these are dry and technical but they are an indispensable source if we are to understand the precise nature of his work.
The evening concluded with a word of thanks to all concerned by the former Provincial Fr Michael Kelleher, who had the idea of producing this book and who has worked constantly to promote the memory of Fr Alec.