Dubs hardman Ger to show spiritual side in Croker...as religious volunteer
HE is an on-pitch tough guy but Dublin star Ger Brennan has a spiritual side too. The All-Ireland winner will be one of 82,000 people in Croke Park this summer -- but for once all eyes won't be on his football skills.
Instead he will be lining out as a volunteer for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress.
For the week prior to the closing ceremony in Croke Park on June 17, the RDS will be filled with 25,000 people daily and the Dubs defender will be involved in a host of diverse events being organised by the Congress, such as youth festivals, music festivals and practical workshops.
"I am a volunteer with the Congress and, with my football profile, I have been helping to promote the Congress since September to get people throughout the country involved," said the All-Ireland winner.
"The Congress are looking to have between 2,000 and 3,000 volunteers for the week of the Congress and in the lead up to the event," says Ger who has a Masters degree in pastoral theology from NUI Maynooth.
"It's a massive operation and a lot of work is going into it. Previously, since September 2010, my role was as a full-time youth coordinator with the Congress until the demands of football took over. I was working with the 26 dioceses of Ireland and the youth directors, and seeing how we could help promote the aims of the Eucharistic Congress to young people.
"I was in this role for a year, involved in the initial stages of the Congress. I had to forgo this though and opt to be a volunteer where I am able to support the youth committee in the organising of events at the Congress itself," said the talented All-Ireland medal holder, who also possesses a spiritual side.
The Congress is a massive event for Ger personally and for Irish people.
"Before I got involved I wouldn't have known what the Eucharistic Congress was. However I began to realise what a big event it was and it gave me an opportunity to look at the aspects of my faith, what I believed in and challenged myself to reflect more deeply on what it means to be a Catholic," admits the secondary school teacher who now teaches Religion and Irish at St Kevin's College in Finglas.
Ger's strong faith was instilled in him as a child at home in Dorset Street with his large family and also in the Jesuit school, Belvedere College.
"I was the fifth of nine kids and we would have gone to Mass and I would have been very involved in my local parish as a young kid.
"There would have been a good youth club there as well so it would have been very normal for me being over in the church," the Dublin back told the Herald.
When the Eucharistic Congress was last held in Ireland in 1931, one million people attended in the Phoenix Park, but numbers are expected to be down on that this year.
"Numbers have dwindled because people have got distracted from what is important and being involved in the Church for me is something which gives me life.
"The abuses which happened in the Church have lowered people's trust in the Church and resulted in them not being involved.
"I would rather be involved in the Church trying to make the change than being on the outside giving out. I think it's a good time to hold a Congress in Ireland as it's good to engage in the question of what life is all about.
"It gives me a sense of worth on my relationship with God and making the most of your gifts and talents," he said.
Such strong spirituality and sport make a good mix. For Ger, faith and football are intertwined with each other.
"It's great having faith when it comes to football. I don't over think things too much and say a prayer and thank God for all my gifts and talents which calms me down and no matter what I do there is always a bigger picture so I don't get caught up with things," he said.