Support group established for distressed clergy of all denominations

Care4Clergy set up due to lack of opportunity to speak in confidential settings

A new support organisation has been established to help distressed clergy of all denominations in Ireland.

Care4Clergy was set up following contact by Belfast priest Fr Martin Magill with retired Presbyterian Minister Rev Gabrielle Farquhar after he heard her discuss problems faced by clergy in a radio interview.

“The issues were so similar,” he said, that he contacted her “and a couple of us wondered about the possibility of setting something up” to help fellow clergy. Rev Farquhar emphasised the support group is “for clergy in all of Ireland”.

The new Care4Clergy website notes that “care of and for the clergy has slipped so far off the radar, that it can be hard to find at all”.


It adds that “while 21st century clergy still have the immeasurable privilege of being present in peoples’ lives at times of great joy and sorrow, conversely there have probably never been a greater number of challenges and a higher level of stress among clergy”.

The group has set up a four-member Harbour Team of experienced clergy who offer a “place of spiritual and psychological sanctuary”, which arose from a “recognition of the pressures and expectations which all clergy face and the lack of opportunity they have to talk about these in a confidential setting.”

Harbour Team

Members of the Harbour Team are Rev Farquhar, retired Church of Ireland priest Rev Elizabeth Hanna, Redemptorist priest Fr Ciarán O'Callaghan and former Methorist President Rev Harold Good who, along with Fr Alec Reid, oversaw the decommissioning of IRA arms.

Between them the four have more than 100 years clergy experience.

“No matter what our differing backgrounds within the Christian Church, we found that certain triggers for difficulties, stress, burnout, conflict are common to all clergy,” said Rev Farquhar.

Fr O’Callaghan emphasised the “inter-church dimension” of the Harbour Team. “ This will allow clergy to have a safe space outside their own denomination, if they need such. It also gives a powerful witness to Jesus’ desire for unity among his followers,” he said.

Rev Hanna emphasised that their dealings with distressed clergy would be “totally confidential”. The Harbour Team offered “an opportunity for someone to talk over any issue that is bothering them. Very often being clergy can be lonely and all you need is to talk to someone who has been there,” she said.

Details at the Care4Clergy Facebook page or

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times