Wednesday, Jul. 27th 2016

Beyond Conception: Building Bridges

This July has been an incredible experience of fun, leadership, service, and prayer.  I was accepted as one of four counselors for the Ulster Project in McPherson, KS.  The Ulster Project began in 1975 in the country of Northern Ireland as a peacemaking effort to help heal the religious, cultural, and political tensions known as “The Troubles.”  The Project brings together Protestant and Catholic teenagers from Northern Ireland who are hosted by U.S.  teenagers and their families for a month of leadership and relationship-building. The goal is to break down prejudices and stereotypes, which are still very much present in Northern Ireland today—though the violence that sparked the Ulster Project’s peacemaking efforts has all but ended.  However, school systems and neighborhoods are very often still segregated as Protestant vs. Catholic, so there isn’t much interaction between the two groups outside of programs like the Ulster Project.  The country itself is also officially Protestant (Anglican tradition), which adds some tension to the mix.  It’s a beautiful opportunity to build bridges and foster reconciliation!

Full shot

It has been a summer full of service projects and good craic, a Gaelic word translated as “fun.”  While we have seen some friction and tension between the different ‘sides,’ it’s been very encouraging to see the teens work together and blossom as young adults.  I’ve been amazed at the ways our little ‘family’ has grown up—including us counselors!  We had some struggles at the beginning of the summer, which is only natural considering that we are working with a group of soon-to-be high school sophomores, but we worked through them.  It’s been an incredibly positive experience!

Most importantly, this July has been a chance to count my blessings.  It’s as busy as a summer of Totus Tuus, but it has been more challenging to find time for prayer, daily Mass, and proper rest—it’s been rare to get any of the above.  As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I’ve come to realize in a deep way what a beautiful gift the Eucharist is, and how many times I haven’t appreciated it!  It also gives me a great perspective on what it feels like to be a parent—busy all day with little free time, whether to use that free time for prayer or naps, and always keeping an eye on the kids.  I appreciate all the sacrifices that parents make!  It’s such a great blessing, too, to have the gift of seminary formation that allows you time for balance, prayer, and intimate friendship with Christ.  These are things that I will no longer take for granted.

All in all, I’ve been blessed to be a part of the Ulster Project.  As with all gifts, I don’t fully appreciate some of its fruits yet, and some aspects were challenging to accept at first.  But that’s the way pruning and growth always goes!  It’s been a time to cling more firmly to Christ in His Passion and Resurrection—albeit in small ways— to journey with our Ulster ‘family’ through difficult times and through glorious times.  As you can imagine, the priesthood is viewed quite differently ‘across the pond,’ especially by Protestants.  One of the most rewarding moments for me was to hear a Protestant teen say that I’d be a “really cool” priest.  It’s a summer I’ll never forget.

If anyone is interested in applying as a counselor for the Project, please feel free to check out the website: for more information.  Above all, please pray for healing in Northern Ireland!


Ty Taylor is a 2016 Conception Seminary College graduate and studies for the Diocese of Wichita in Kansas. He will be attending Kenrick-Glennon Seminary for theology studies in the fall.

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