First Vows of Matthew and Paolo

"The flight from Belfast to Birmingham was straightforward, though getting up at five was not fun!" says Frank Brady SJ, of the Jesuit community in Portadown, Northern Ireland. "That was my own fault, though. I could have booked a later flight. I just wanted time in Birmingham with the community there as I had not spent any time there for a number of years." On Saturday 7th September, Frank joined the novitiate community and guests at St Mary's church, Birmingham, for the Mass of First Vows of Paolo Beltrame and Matthew Tumulty.

Younger men who are thinking of joining the Jesuits spend two years in Birmingham with other younger men on the same journey. Matthew had been a transport manager with Iaranród Éireann and Paolo had been lecturing in astro-physics and worked in the USA on ‘dark matter’. Two very different careers; two very different individuals. They had spent two years getting ready for the day when they would take vows in the Society of Jesus. Now Matthew is going to Chicago and Paulo to Paris for their studies.

Paolo is Italian but joined the British province after having lived and worked in Edinburgh some years. It was natural for Matthew to join the Jesuits in Ireland, as, though he had spent his early years in London, his parents had relocated to Balinasloe and he went to school in Garbally College in Co Galway.

A good part of the training is spent in different types of placement, or ‘experiments’ as Jesuits refer to them. For one of his experiments, Matthew was for six weeks in Portadown, where he worked with Brendan MacPartlin SJ in the Migrant Centre there. There are many migrants from Portuguese speaking and other countries in the Mid-Ulster region of Northern Ireland. They do precarious and low paid factory work in Portadown, Dungannon and other towns and Brendan set up the Migrant centre to assist with language learning and other integration projects.

As well as working with Brendan and his team in the Migrant centre in Matthew spent three days with Frank Brady SJ visiting prisoners in Maghaberry prison and he worked and accompanied Michael Bingham SJ in his work accompanying former prisoners trying to settle into civilian life again. Other experiments Matthew did while in Birmingham were with the l’Arche Community for adults with learning disabilities and a period in Jesuit works in Zambia. Paolo also spent time living and working in the L’Arche community in Edinburgh, as well as teaching in Belvedere College in Dublin, helping in the chaplaincy in Manchester University and, at the end, working in the Vatican Observatory in Rome, honing his astro-physics once again. What a variety!

Some of Matthew’s family had arrived the night before, while Paolo's family from Rome and others arrived in the morning. At around noon, the participants all gathered in the local Augustinian church, and the two companions vowed to spend their lives with the Society. "We had a great day witnessing and celebrating Matthew and Paolo making their First Vows", continues Frank Brady SJ. "They have courage. Many of us are no longer in the prime of life and there are many challenges in today’s world, not least the ecological challenge, the challenge of poverty and radical inequality in society and the challenge of making sense with the young of faith and hope in today’s world. They are up for it. I pray that God gives them as much or more happiness in the Js as he has given me, even though that is asking a lot!"

Read Paolo Beltrame's reflection on novitiate life