St Albert's Catholic Chaplaincy has played a much bigger part in my life than I could have ever expected.
When I arrived in Edinburgh from Singapore as a young, international student ready to undertake my architecture degree, I was ready to dive straight into all that Freshers' Week had in store. My mum, who was with me, had a different priority: to establish me within a supportive Catholic community and to make sure that I attended Mass!
What started out as a promise to my mum turned into so much more. It was at the Chaplaincy that I realised I had to take the decision for myself whether or not I was going to pursue truth and faith in my life. At first, I went along to Mass and to student events not knowing anybody else. But this didn't last very long, and I soon made friends – some of whom I hope will be lifelong! I got more and more involved, and ended up being elected as the CSU president!
In my first year, the dynamic duo of Fr Simon Gaine and Fr Peter Hunter helped to plant seeds of wisdom infused with a lot of laughter. They made living a life of faith fun! I grew to appreciate the depth of my Catholic faith through weekly discussions, retreats and events. However, equally important was the space which the Dominicans generously gave us students just to 'be' and to socialise, which really fostered a sense of community. Yet it was Fr Martin Ganeri's kind and supportive presence that truly cemented the Chaplaincy as my 'home away from home' when I unexpectedly lost my father.
After university, I made my home in Edinburgh, working in various architectural and business roles. I started a young adults group (the Ministry of Seekers) to try and capture some of the vitality of the CSU. One of the priests who was posted to Edinburgh for a period was Fr Lawrence Lew, with whom I became friendly. One day when we met for lunch he had a very unexpected proposition for me! Would I be interested in becoming a lay chaplain, working alongside the Dominicans?
I could have never imagined this opportunity and had certainly never considered working in chaplaincy before. But the suggestion stirred something in my heart and I realised that I had a passion to help students to meet the Lord in the profound way that I had at university, and not only that but I had unwittingly been preparing myself for this role in leading the young adults group and in other ways in the past years.
So from being my chaplains in my formative young adult years, they are now my colleagues and friends. After a three-hour-long chat with Fr Dermot Morrin, who was Prior at St Albert's at the time, he pioneered the role of Lay Chaplain, and has been instrumental in guiding my growth in the role. Fr Irenaeus Vincent who added some Caribbean spice and engaged us in learning his catchy songs ('God's word, the Eucharist and pray everyday...'). Fr John O'Connor, and his insightful homilies, that never cease to make us reflect, ponder and put into practice God's wisdom and more recently, Br Samuel Burke, has joined the team at the right time, live-streaming mass so that we are still able to participate, albeit virtually!
My journey with the Dominicans has given me a deeper appreciation of what the prophet Jeremiah wrote: 'For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope'. The Lord knows his plan even when we do not. And for that I will be eternally grateful!
The above has been adapted from a feature in the Dominicans' Magazine article.
Lilian Lee was a student from 2001-2007 and a former Term 2 & 3 CSU President (‘03-’04). She is currently the Lay Chaplain at St Albert's Catholic Chaplaincy and runs a social enterprise, Fourth World Art.