THIS WEEK marked a very special anniversary for Dundalk priest Father Gerry Bellew, who returned to his home town to celebrate his 50th year as a priest.
Fr Bellew made the long flight from Chile, where he has dedicated over 35 years of service to the Columban Fathers.
Yet it was in St Joseph’s Redemptorist Church, where Fr Bellew was ordained in 1961, that he returned on Sunday to give Mass.
“We met up last Monday to celebrate 50 years with some of the other priests who were ordained in 1961. My cousin Fr Paddy Martin was also ordained at the Redemptorist Church, though he died in the Philippines last year.”
Fr Bellew works in the capital of Chile, Santiago, which he describes as having a climate similar to the Meditteranean. Yet he makes return visits to Dundalk at regular intervals, though this particular visit was outside of the normal routine due to the half century celebrations.
Chile was thrust into the limelight last year when the world’s media descended on the country of 16 million inhabitants to film the miraculous rescue of a group of miners, a feat Fr Bellew describes as “spectacular”.
“It is a country which is now both economically and political stable. When I first came to South America in 1975 practically all the countries were run by dictators. It has improved significantly over the years.”
Walking around Dundalk, Fr Bellew admits that his home town has also “changed”.
“I suppose the majority of my working life has been in the Chile and that has naturally become my home. But returning to your roots is always good.”
Fr Gerry is one week into a three week return visit to Dundalk. His father worked in The Dundalk Democrat and his brother’s son, Sean, also worked at the paper. His brother Jim is also known for his business, Bellew Print.
“It is I suppose a time to reflect and to give thanks for what has been a happy life.”