[Authors note: Julian is Spanish. He was ordained a Jesuit in the US after his studies there. He subsequently left the priesthood and married. As someone who had left the priesthood, his perspective on Michael Kickham has a particular resonance.]
With great pleasure I’ve finished reading your “Goodbye Kit”. Excellent, very enjoyable. Your English, more classic than that of the USA, appealed a lot to me.
Michael is now a good friend of mine, very close. If we had known each other, if we had lived in the same place at the same time, we would have been very good companions and we would have supported one another.
The book reminded me of how happy I was when I went home for the holidays, leaving the seminary for a while, just like Michael leaving Mount Melleray and enjoying the family, the Happy Days of Summer. I also took a big trunk to the seminary.
It seems clear that he had the charisma to relate to and live with the people; and that they in turn always accepted him with enthusiasm. I felt happy seeing the enthusiasm with which he received the well deserved homage of his congregation or in the newspapers. How happy he was when they said their goodbyes to him in Napier after two years as a curate!
What remains with me is the image of a priest who is irreproachable, religious, close to the people, sought after, appreciated, who always did the right thing throughout his life. He was sincere to himself and to the people.
There are many coincidences in the journeys of Michael and Julian. For Michael, as for Julian, in Catholic Ireland or Spain, having a son a priest was a great honour. I remember when my parents came to New York for my ordination, how happy they felt. Or when a mass was celebrated in my village for my ordination when they returned.
For Michael, there was a dark cloud which undermined his health and caused great sadness in his life. “Leaving the priesthood wasn’t that simple. It signified a great shame for me and my family”. For Julian, it was never a personal shame, but I felt terribly sad seeing my family. My parents suffered incredibly. What must the families of my hometown have thought!
It is not easy to understand why Michael left the priesthood: he loved his religion and loved his pastoral work as a priest, but in liberating himself from the weight of the priesthood, he discovered himself. And the future? Uncertain, as naked as when he was born, without money, without a profession, without friends, without family with whom to share the loneliness! But I feel that: “I need to go someplace far away…, I started to panic”. A feeling of great loneliness.
I believe he was relatively happy in Buenos Aires until his secret was discovered. That messed up everything and it was as much a cause of his death as was his diseased liver.
So thank you Vincent, I’ve had a great time reading about the complicated and Wonderful Life of Michael. To serve the people, he left his beloved Emerald Isle for much of that life. Well Michael:
“And the man who was never in Mullinahone shouldn’t say he had travelled at all”