First humanist pastoral assistant appointed to rugby team in Northern Ireland
THE first humanist pastoral assistant was appointed to a rugby team in Northern Ireland.
Ciarán McWilliams will provide “emotional and spiritual” support to the players, coaches and supporters of the Ophir Rugby Football Club, which has grown from Mallusk to a partnership with the University of Ulster in Jordanstown.
Ophir is positioning itself as one of the few secular clubs in Northern Ireland and strives to promote “inclusion and diversity” in football.
The Azlans – the region’s first predominantly gay team – joined the club in 2018 and Ophir launched a girls’ and women’s section last year.
Mr. McWilliams trained as a Humanist Pastoral Assistant in 2018, after receiving support himself while in hospital.
He is now responsible for the pastoral care of humanists in Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland coordinator for the non-religious pastoral support network.
He is also part of the first team to provide humanistic care at Maghaberry Prison.
His work with the club will involve regular visits to training sessions and games for all sections of the club and will also provide support outside of the club facilities.
“It is a great honor to be asked to support the rugby club that I love in this way,” he said.
“I have been a member of Ophir RFC for over 30 years as a player, referee, coach, youth leader and committee member.
“Over the past three years, as a coach and youth leader, I have needed to use my pastoral experience and training on several occasions.
“Each time the interactions were unique and it was clear that a role that provided emotional support was needed at the club.”
Club President Will Lucas, President of Ophir RFC, said that “our growth and inclusiveness is something we are proud of at Ophir”.
“We have really created a sense of community within the club and with that in mind, we are delighted that Ciarán McWilliams is taking the initiative to provide this community and its members with emotional support and to help ensure well-being. of our club. “