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Fr Ger Fitzgerald in Ennis Cathedral. Photograph by John Kelly.

Fr Ger bids to row into the record books

ENNIS-based priest Fr Ger Fitzgerald is attempting to break the world record for the longest journey on a land rowing machine, in aid of Clare Haven and Bushy Park Ennis.

In order to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, the cleric must complete at least 5,280km on the rowing machine. The current record holder is Rob Bryant, an American man who covered a distance measuring 5,278.5km on a land rowing machine.

“Last year, I attempted to cycle 30 miles every day for 30 days in aid of Barnardo’s Children’s Charity. With much support from my friends in Ennis, I was able to succeed and raised over €6,000 for the charity. This year, I wanted to do something different for a local charity and the idea I got was to attempt to break a world record. Given that I wouldn’t be very fit at the best of times and also given the fact that I have no patience for attempting long records, I decided to attempt something on the rowing machine, because it is the one exercise (besides hurling) that I actually enjoy,” Fr Fitzgerald said.

His chosen charities are Clare Haven and Bushy Park Ennis, which he said “are two organisations who, in my mind, are richly deserving”.
Bushy Park Treatment Centre is a 13-bed residential treatment centre located on 17 acres of parkland, three miles outside of the town, which offers a 28-day residential programme for people addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling. It is based on the 12 step philosophy/Minnesota model of treatment. Bushy Park helps others to help themselves and assists people to get back on track.
Fr Fitzgerald said both charities are involved in “heroic work”.

“Clare Haven provides support, information and refuge accommodation to women and their children experiencing domestic violence/abuse. Since they opened their doors in 1993, Clare Haven has always been very dependent on financial help from the general public, not just to maintain their core services but to expand them also. They are continually expanding services in line with their policy to provide support and information to women and their children experiencing domestic violence/abuse,” he explained.

His inspiration for doing this event he said is not easy to pin down.

“It starts initially with God, who planted the idea in my head and, thus far, is allowing me to carry it out. Without God, I could do nothing in my life. Without him, I would most certainly not be a priest, nor would I be attempting this.

“The second inspiration is Pope Francis, who told us to go out into the streets and help out. His papacy and example are big inspirations to me so, hopefully, this event will help to raise a bit of money for those who need these services. My third inspiration is a quote from Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris,” he said.

The Pope’s inspirational quote he recounts states: “Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of ill health; disability stemming from his work; widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of his own he is deprived of the means of livelihood. Moreover, man has a natural right to be respected. He has a right to his good name. He has a right to freedom in investigating the truth, and—within the limits of the moral order and the common good—to freedom of speech and publication, and to freedom to pursue whatever profession he may choose”.

Fr Fitzgerald added that Megan McKenna was “very right” when she described the Scriptures as dangerous as he said, when read correctly, they promote justice, peace and the God-given integrity of every human being.

“Placed at the pinnacle of creation we are the only things created that contain the breath of God within us, therefore, each of us must surely have a duty to help to conquer injustice to our fellow human beings. Pope John XXIII in the above quotation, simply echo’s what the Scriptures have bellowed for centuries. Human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, have a right to have life and have it to the full. That means we should be allowed to live in a harmony which does not cause harm, belittle, entrap or enslave. The two organisations I am hoping to raise money for attempt to do just that. Clare Haven and Bushy Park work diligently and professionally to enable humanity to flourish once more, to provide the light of hope to people and to reach out to those in need,” he said.

Fr Fitzgerald hopes to hire a machine for the first few days of his land rowing but he will begin his record-breaking attempt on the grounds of Ennis Cathedral later this month.

“I will need lots of help for my record attempt. I’ll be looking for people to volunteer to help me with log books and recordings and all the other rules that came from Guinness World Records HQ. I’ll need someone to keep me motivated and keep going. Most importantly, I’ll need sponsorship. And I would like to tell you, a record will be kept of your sponsorship, and if I fail in my attempt, I will happily refund all monies,” he said.

Anyone who would like to sponsor Fr Ger can do so through the parish office. In advance of committing himself to attempting to cover 5,280km, the Ennis priest contacted the current record holder, Mr Bryant.

“He was most gracious and pledged support to the attempt. This man has more heart and determination than I will ever have, as he performed this task after recovering from serious injury. Therefore, my attempt, if successful, will be not a breaking of his record but a sharing in it,” he concluded.

By Carol Byrne

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