At forty-one, Fr Francis Ferry was ordained a priest on July 1, 2007, at St Eunan’s Cathedral, Letterkenny, in Donegal. Medjugorje played an important part in forming his vocation. This is his witness.
I first went to Medjugorje in 1995. I was 29 years of age and very lost. At that time in my life I was a taxi driver, making good money and had my own house in Dublin.
My faith before I went to Medjugorje was very shallow. My father was a policeman all his life and I have a brother in the police. I also wanted to be a policeman, but instead I worked for four years as a truck driver. I enjoyed driving, and when I was 22 I began to work for myself as a taxi-driver in Dublin. I worked five nights a week and I made good money for a young person. But material things did not bring happiness.
I drove people to drink... and at the end of the day, I went on to drink as well. I sought happiness in drink because I saw that what the world had to offer was very shallow. I felt emptiness in myself, and I began to drink very heavily. Within my family, we all were drinking; in Ireland it is often a family problem. And when there is a problem within the family, peace is gone. My relationship with my family was very much broken.
I would work four or five nights a week, and the rest of the week I would be drinking. I thought I could control my drinking. It became a big problem and it was getting worse. Every weekend, after two or three days of serious drinking, I would say: never again, but I could not control it. I did not know where to turn.
One night in 1993 – I was 27 years of age – I became very angry and very drunk. I was driving my car and was involved in a very serious car accident. I hit a tree at high speed and the car was totally written off, from front to back. I ended up in hospital for five weeks. I broke my hip very badly, damaged a sciatic nerve, and injured my right foot.
After a few weeks in the hospital, the doctors said that the sciatic nerve was not healing because of the damage. When I eventually left hospital I was on crutches for another six months. That gave me time to slow down, to think, to realise that I had to get some control over my actions and life. It was a miracle as such that I got alive out of that car. It was a very, very bad accident.
When I am asked how I became a priest, I answer: I met the Lord by accident. That was the turning point. At the time of the accident, I was seeking God very much. I was angry with myself, I was angry with life, with the family situation as well. There was no peace in my life. It was so empty and I was making so many mistakes. I was asking from the depth of my heart: if there is a God, that I would find him.
About a year later, I got back to work. My leg was still very bad. My brother came to me one day and said that there was a healing priest in Dublin and, as the doctor said that they could not heal the sciatic nerve, I should go to him. His name was Aidan Carroll. I went to his Mass and he happened to speak during the Mass about Medjugorje. I did not know anything about Medjugorje. He said if anyone wished to go to Medjugorje, he had tickets at a reduced price. I approached him after Mass and said I would be free to go.
I knew nothing about Medjugorje and I found out that I did not know much about my faith, God, or Our Lady until I went to Medjugorje. I experienced a very, very enjoyable week, and found great joy and a peace that I had been seeking for a long time and could not find anywhere. I had been seeking in the wrong places. I was empty, and did not know how to fill this huge emptiness.
That week was a huge turning point in my life. I came to realise that, as the messages say, God exists. I felt after leaving Medjugorje that Our Lady was a real mother, and that had a huge impact on me – the reality that my Mother cares so much for me. My family was broken at that stage. I needed the sense of coming home with Our Lady.
I returned home and started going to daily Mass and praying the Rosary. I still struggled with the alcohol. I thought I could control it again, but I couldn’t. I thought I could drink socially, but I couldn’t. My last bout of drinking was in 1996, on Christmas Eve, after working a couple of hours in my taxi. I drunk all that night. Later, I called to someone’s house very drunk and very hurt within. I told this person that, if she would forgive me something I did, I would never drink again. She said that it was all right.
I thought that I would have no social life without drinking, but I realised that I was happier. My peace was growing, I could trust myself and I felt a sense of serenity.
Medjugorje helped me a lot on that road to sobriety because I was going to Mass every day, and I asked the Lord for the grace to stay sober one day at a time, from one Eucharist to the next. That is what I did, and Our Lady helped me by way of the Rosary.
In Medjugorje, it was recommended that, when we go home, we should get involved in a prayer group. In Dublin, I looked around for a suitable group – Marian, Eucharistic and charismatic. I started going to a group every Monday; they were very good and very helpful. I found friendship and support. It was providential.
In June 1997, the prayer group went for an annual retreat. We were about 15 in number, and about five other people joined the retreat. During the retreat there was a healing service, Mass and Blessed Sacrament exposed. Anyone who wished for healing prayer was invited forward. I was seated at the back, and then I stood up, went forward and knelt in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I prayed with my heart for healing, and the group prayed with me. At that stage, I was hoping for inner healing of my brokenness, rather then physical healing of the injury on my leg. I heard somebody saying behind me: “Lift up your tired hands and straighten your trembling knees. Keep walking on the straight path, so that your lame foot may not be disabled but instead healed.” I think this was coming straight from the Lord, from the Blessed Sacrament. It spoke straight to my heart. I did not know this lady. She told me later that this was from the Bible, (Hebrews 12,12). She did not know me or about my car accident and injury.
The following evening, I went home to my father with this good news. I was chatting to him in the kitchen for many hours. I shared my experience of the day before and was very excited. He opened up the Bible, but his translation was different. Only the Good News Bible had the words “lame foot”. I was amazed that God was so caring. He knows me so intimately, and He knew which Bible translation to take! There is no coincidence with God. He was promising me a physical healing! I was not even asking for this! My accident was in June 1993. The conversation with my father was in June 1997. My father looked up in his diary: the accident happened precisely four years ago, at ten minutes past one in the morning. He answered that prayer exactly four years later, to the very minute! God was saying that this was not a coincidence. He was confirming the healing, he knew every second of my life.
In Medjugorje, I came to the awareness that God exists. In Medjugorje, I found a home. After Medjugorje, my faith was becoming stronger and stronger. Daily Mass became the centre of my life.
The call to priesthood came in 1998. I was on retreat in England. I was afraid of this call, but I felt it in my heart. I knew that I had to respond. I knew that God was with me. Here I am now, as a priest. Holy Mass that I have celebrated in St James in Medjugorje was one of my first Masses. In Medjugorje I heard my first confession and gave my first absolution. I knew that I am not worthy to hear anybody’s confessions, so I went for confession to Fr Svetozar before I heard my first confession.
I have total trust in the message of Medjugorje. I have been here 20 times, most of the time on my own. I have learned obedience to the Catholic Church in Medjugorje. Medjugorje is a part of my spiritual and emotional formation, one of the best parts of my formation. I am happy to be a priest.
Adapted from a report published by the Medjugorje Information Centre.