Celebrity ST

Spiritual Transformation – Celebrity No. 1

Gerard Hanley

Gerard, welcome on board Spiritual Transformation! You have achieved a lot of success on the football field. For the benefit of our readers, can you outline some of the highlights of your football career?

My childhood dream was always to play professional football. I wanted to play for Ireland more than anything. My dream started to become somewhat realistic when I played my first international game against Holland at u15 level. I played in goals for Ireland from u15 to u19. The most memorable times were playing in the European Championships at u17 Level. We knocked out Portugal and Germany in my hometown Galway on the way to the finals in Turkey. I then played in the League of Ireland for Galway United and Mervue with short spells at Dundalk and Shelbourne. I had a lot of ups and downs in professional football never quite making that breakthrough I always wanted. In the end the Lord had other plans and I think deep down I always knew that another path lay ahead of me!

Can you share with us about your life growing up in Galway?

I grew up in a busy and active family. I have one older brother and two sisters. One older, one younger. We were all active and played a lot of sports. Most of my childhood was spent outside whether that was climbing trees and ‘going back the fields’ or out playing some kind of sport. I played everything from swimming and tennis to hurling, gaelic and soccer. I enjoyed growing up with my family and I’m grateful for the start I had to life. My parents encouraged us in school and in sports and all four of us have done well in one, the other or both of those areas!

What are you doing now in life?

Right now, I am working for NET Ministries Ireland. We are a Catholic Youth Ministry whose mission is to encourage young people to love Jesus and embrace the life of the Church. This year we took on 40 missionaries, trained them and sent them out all over Ireland in Teams to run youth groups, school retreats, RE Classes and much more. It is a privilege to work with NET!

Gerard, can you tell us about your faith?

My faith is central in my life. I encountered Jesus in Confession and in the Eucharist on a retreat in Knock when I was 13 years old. When our Religion teacher brought us on that retreat I was open but sceptical about even the existence of God. I think in my heart I always knew He was real but I had no idea just how real He is. I encountered his love and mercy that day in a powerful way which set my life in a whole other direction. That encounter set me seeking God. It was difficult because our main stream culture today is very secular and I found it difficult to be open about my faith with others. I didn’t have a clue how to build a relationship with Jesus and follow him. It wasn’t until I was nearing the end of secondary school that I started to meet other Christians who could help me journey with the Lord and set me on the right path.

Are you able to articulate how God has transformed your life?

One the biggest things He has done in my life is He has given me a new sense of direction and purpose. I love God and I love his Church. You could say that as a child I wanted to ‘serve myself’ by becoming a famous footballer but now I am beginning to see God’s call in my life to serve him and His Church. God’s has an eternal plan for our lives and I am grateful for the gift of faith He has given me to be able to see glimpses of that plan!

We are a few days into Lent. What spiritual exercises do you hope to undertake this Lent?

Something that always interests me is cultural trends. When we get involved in a movement are we simply going with the flow or are we convicted about something. During Advent for example, as we prepare for Christmas, I do my best to listen to the Church in her Liturgy and avoid being ‘distracted’ by all the noise the world can create. It’s not easy and not everything in the world is bad! Not at all, but I do make a concentrated effort to listen to what the Church is saying during Liturgical seasons by being attentive at Mass and praying with the Liturgy of the Hours. As Catholics I think it is important to identify as pilgrims moving along with the Church, which at times means setting ourselves in stark contrast with the movement of the world. So for Lent, the main spiritual exercises I undertake are praying with the Liturgy of the hours and attending Holy Mass daily. I believe allowing the Church to feed us spiritually is one of the best practices we can take up at times like this. With regards to fasting and penance I am cutting back on the amount of time I spend on the internet. I tend to look up the latest news and certain sports websites a bit too frequently I think! I’m trying to keep my room more tidy too! Putting things back where they belong is a habit I want to really get a hang of especially since I’m getting married in April! I think Katie will appreciate it if I’m a bit more tidy than I am right now! 😊

What works of mercy will you attempt to do this Lent?

Oh, wow….. You’ve got me here! I have to admit I didn’t reflect on what works of mercy to take up during Lent but it sounds like a good idea! I was at the Legion of Mary Youth Conference in Sligo last weekend. I met a few people who help out at the Morning Star hostel in Dublin which caters for homeless men in the area. I was telling them that helping out at that some evenings was something I’d like to do. Maybe that was the Holy Spirit nudging me towards some concrete works of mercy. I do pray for the Holy Souls often enough which is a spiritual work of mercy right? I am writing a confirmation programme too for NET which I think will qualify as ‘instructing the ignorant’. I’m digging here! Thank you for the challenge! If you come back to me next year I may have improved! 😊

Have you set any personal goals for yourself?

Again…thank you for the challenge! I have decided that I want to build the habit of always putting things back where they belong around the house so I guess that counts as a personal goal for Lent. Hopefully by the end of Lent I will have developed a clutter free life! That is a concrete goal but apart from that I want to continue growing closer to God and to allow him shape and mould me into the man he has created me to be. By His grace this Lent, may He do just that! (You’ve helped me think about being more specific with works of mercy and setting goals for next time so thank you!)

Thank you so much Gerard for your time and for being so open and honest! We wish you a grace filled Lent and we look forward to checking in with you at Easter to see how you got on with your goals! In the meantime, please be assured of our prayers as you prepare for your marriage with Katie in April. We hope you will have a happy, holy and a ‘clutter free’ life together!! 


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