Mayoral reception in recognition of 'exceptional' work by Sion clergymen

A MAYORAL reception has been held in recognition of the pastoral support and outreach work of two clergymen in Sion Mills.

Church of Ireland Minister, Rev Jonathan McFarland and Roman Catholic priest, Fr Thomas Canning, have been front and centre in the village's response during the pandemic.

There work has certainly not gone unnoticed with local community worker, Andy Patton, of Sion Mills Community Forum, keen to have their contribution duly recognised.

He had previously contacted both the Bishop of the Derry and Raphoe Diocese, Rev Andrew Forster and Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, alerting them to their work and seeking formal recognition with both church leaders commending the clergymen for their ongoing work.

The pair were also recognised by Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, with a civic reception in the Guildhall on Monday night.

Mayor Warke said: “I was delighted to welcome Rev McFarland and Fr Canning to the Guildhall to thank them for the selfless and vital support that they provided to their communities in Sion Mills during the very difficult period of the pandemic.

"It was a scary and challenging time for so many, and both Rev McFarland and Fr Canning were a listening ear and a source of support for anyone who needed them.”

Also present at the event was Mr Patton who said the event was due recognition for two "very exceptional men".

"It was fantastic visit to the Mayor's Parlour in the Guildhall," he said.

"Our two local church ministers got well deserved recognition by the Mayor and were presented with a piece of crystal with their names on them and inscribed of the fantastic work that they both do in Sion Mills.

"Well done Rev Jonathan McFarland and Fr Thomas Canning, two very exceptional men.

"They both deserve the praise and recognition for all their hard work throughout COVID and their ongoing pastoral care."

Speaking of their invaluable work during the pandemic, Mr Patton explained: "They came along and helped pack the food bags, wading in with masks and aprons on to ensure the most vulnerable in the community were getting the help they needed.

"Their spiritual input did not go unnoticed either. When we told recipients that the church ministers were helping out the people told us to ensure we forwarded their best wishes and prayers to them.

"They are doing brilliant inter-denominational worker here in the village too, and they did tremendous work throughout the pandemic.

"These two upstanding Christian men were and continue to be to the forefront."

Rev McFarland was accompanied by his wife Jacqui while Stella McGinley, sacristan at St Theresa's Church in the village and Anne O'Nell, of the Kathleen Graham Trust, also attended the reception.

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