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      Barra & Vatersay News

The people of the Isle of Barra will gather in rejoicing later this month, as their much-loved parish priest, Canon John Paul Mackinnon, celebrates his silver jubilee.

Not only Barra parishioners, but priests and congregants from Uist and further afield will be joined by the bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Bishop Brian McGee, for a weekend of events marking 25 years in the priesthood for Father John Paul.

Bishop Brian will celebrate a vigil mass at St Brendan’s Church in Craigston on Saturday 22 June, before a huge gathering in the open air at Northbay Grotto at 2.30pm on Sunday 23 June, when Fr John Paul will celebrate mass.

Alongside him will be concelebrants from other parishes, including Fr Michael Macdonald from St Michael’s in Iochdar and Fr Ross Crichton from St Peter’s in Daliburgh.

St Peter’s is Fr John Paul’s own home parish – he was ordained there on 24 June 1999 and is still a regular visitor, both in a personal capacity and as part of his calling, according to Rev Martin Matheson, Daliburgh’s permanent deacon.

Rev Matheson told “Fr John Paul is one of ours. His parents Ronald and Rachel still stay in Daliburgh and attend mass here, and Fr JP always comes across on the ferry on Sunday evening and stays until Monday.

“He will also come across to celebrate weddings and funeral masses when he is asked by families he knows well. He’s a very frequent personal visitor.”

As a result, this most significant moment in the life of a priest will be celebrated with enthusiasm on both sides of the Sound of Barra, as Rev Matheson explained.

He said: “A silver jubilee is a big deal, a big milestone. Most priests, even if they go into the priesthood straight from school, are unlikely to be ordained until they are 25, and 75 is retirement age in the church, so fewer priests will celebrate their golden jubilee, which is the other big one.

“Fr John Paul is a lovely, calm, gentle soul. Nothing is a problem to him. He is very helpful and would do anything for anybody. He would be as helpful to you as he could, whether he had become a priest or a fisherman.

“He is a lovely man of God, well-loved by the people of South Uist, who are very proud that one of our own has become a priest. We’re all delighted that he has done what he has.”

Parishioners from South Uist will travel to the ferry in bus loads, and buses have been arranged to take them from the ferry to Northbay for the outdoor mass. They are bringing with them not just good wishes but a gift, which has already been ordered.

They’ll be invited to join Fr John Paul’s own parishioners for food and refreshments in the church grounds afterwards and Rev Matheson says the celebrations are likely to go on for a long time.

In Barra parishioners are also collecting towards a gift for their priest, with donations being accepted via and at A&C MacLeans (Buth Bhuidsear) or Castlebay Post Office.

Although Bishop Brian is able to reach Barra directly from Oban by ferry, sadly Canon William Maclean from Our Holy Redeemer church in Stornoway will not be able to join the gathering, due to the difficult ferry connections.

Nevertheless, he said: “I and the congregation in Stornoway wish Canon John Paul many blessings on his silver anniversary.”

The pictures show Canon John Paul performing his island duties, including the Blessing of the Boats in July 2021 and first communion mass earlier this month (St Barr’s RC Church, Isle of Barra).