It was a scene to behold on Wednesday morning when an eclectic mix of people from around the world gathered at Fr. McGrath Centre. The occasion was the end of term Failte Isteach Christmas social. There was an added air of excitement about the place this year, as it was the first Christmas gathering since 2019, when due to the Covid Pandemic, such gatherings were restricted.
There to welcome Mayor David Fitzgerald were Stephen Murphy, Director of Services, Fr. McGrath Centre, Mike Kelly, Chairman of St. Canice’s Community Action, PPN representative, Volunteer Centre and Kilkenny Leader Partnership representatives, students and invited guests.
Addressing the gathering, coordinator Theresa Delahunty said: “we are all gathered here together in our common humanity as one family, while at the same time respecting and valuing the diversity of cultures, from Africa, Asia, South America, Eastern and Western Europe. We especially welcome our new Ukrainian Community, who this time last year had no expectation that this Christmas would find them living on the Island of Ireland, far away from their homeland and their loved ones. However, due to circumstances outside their control, that is their reality for now”.
Theresa continued in a welcoming vein saying: “for us it is always heart-warming to hear our programme makes a difference to so many people, whether it is a stepping-stone to further education or assisting integration with the local community.” The Fr. McGrath Centre has been a pillar of support over the years and for many a bright light in an otherwise dark world.
She thanked the dedicated group of volunteer tutors who provide conversation and basic English training each Wednesday and Friday morning. These sessions provide participants with the rudimentary of everyday language, from which they are assisted, if they so wish, to progress to more formal learning with ETB and other such agencies. Fr. McGrath Centre and Failte Isteach is not just a place to learn English, it is also a social meeting space for many who would otherwise be isolated due to barriers of language and different culture norms.
In his address, Mayor David Fitzgerald referred to the central message of Christmas, citing the family who were turned away as there was no room at the Inn. He went on to say that it will not happen in Kilkenny.
“People coming to Kilkenny will not be turned away – there will be room at the Inn made available and they will be welcomed and supported”, the mayor said. He said Kilkenny was an inclusive place to live and that people who come from outside Ireland contribute so much to the fabric of life in the city. “They bring us the richness and diversity of their cultures as is highlighted here today”, continued Mayor Fitzgerald He thanked all those who have contributed over the years, especially the Fr. McGrath Centre who have housed the project for more than ten years. He finished by saying said that he was looking forward to sampling some of the culinary delights he saw on his way in, all made by the students themselves.
The morning concluded with music and song, combining Irish traditional, Christmas Carols and a rendition of a Ukrainian Carol followed by social interaction and sampling culinary delights representing the food dishes of the many different cultures present.