Who are my role models?
I’ll try to answer this question historically, I think. In primary school who were my role models? When I got into third and fourth classes primary it was definitely Mr Murray my teacher – an elderly man coming to the end of his life as a teacher. He was a marvellously good teacher and as a little boy I felt I learned such a lot from him – all that wonderful information about subjects from maths to geography to Irish. At primary school I was not very good at P.E. or physical exercise. I never made any school team. Certainly I played football on the streets. I suppose one other teacher Seán Ó Sé whom we had in fifth class. He was a marvellous teacher, precise, exact and committed to his job, though one very seldom saw his really human or softer side. Yet I was enthralled by the clarity of his teaching and his commitment to the task at hand.
In secondary school about four people stand out: Bro Collins who was a brilliant teacher rather like Mr Ó Sé from primary in his approach, Br Russell our honours maths and religion teacher from 5th and 6th year, and then two interesting and different teachers - Mr Michael McLoughlin and Mr Gerry Hogan. These latter two were very inspiring people. Mick McLoughlin was an absolute gentleman and scholar with a very human approach to teaching. He explained things very well and had a marvellously unique sense of humour. He was also very helpful when explaining things. Then Gerry was really unique – he was brilliant at French and gave me my love of languages. He also had a riveting understanding of philosophical questions and enthralled me with his take on dreams and psychological questions.
An interesting question would be were there any role models outside teachers. None that I can think of now. Is it any wonder that I became a teacher?
In college I suppose role models would have been Michael Paul Gallagher, S.J, who had a deeply human and spiritual take on life. From him I got my interest in meditation. No wonder I went on eventually to write a book on meditation. Other role models would have been Fr Pat Carmody a fantastic philosopher and Fr Pat Wallace who was surely a visionary with respect to religious education and spirituality. Then there was Benedict Hegarty, OP, a Scripture scholar whose sense of humour I really liked and the light way he carried his knowledge. In English I suppose John Devitt was inspiring.
All of these role models were in the field of education. On a personal level one of my friends, Tom Gleeson, was and is an inspiring role model. He is true to self, a really authentic and together person. I learned a lot from him as regards teaching and personal development. I owe to him the fact that he introduced me to Tom Hamill, a brilliant and unique adult educator – a scholar and a really sharp educationist.
I suppose, as I’m aging, people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy and the South African Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton would rate as heroes. Others would be Mother Teresa, Frere Roger of Taizé, Thich Nhat Hahn, William Johnston SJ, Thomas Merton and the Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello.
So much for role models and heroes. I have noticed that the more I gain a sense of my own soul, the more one’s heroes recede into the background. Nevertheless, those role models are there all the time in the background. I owe them my soul!