BREAKING THE MOULD
NEWLY ORDAINED REVEREND NICOLA HALFORD TELLS SAOIRSE MCGARRIGLE OF HER PLANS FOR WEXFORD...AND HER TASTE FOR RAP MUSIC
BLONDE highlights, tag rugby and Jay Z are not normally associated with a priest. But Reverend Nicola Halford brings that and much more to her new posting in Wexford town.
Wexford's new Church of Ireland priest accepts that she 'doesn't fit the stereotypical priest mould', but she is bursting with enthusiasm as she settles into her first appointment as a curate assistant to the Wexford and Kilscoran Union of Parishes.
The 32-year-old former swimming teacher from Inchicore, Dublin, was recently ordained at St. Iberius's Church and has since then been getting to grips with the day to day responsibilities of a priest.
She attends morning assemblies at the St. Iberius School and acts as a chaplain for the Church of Ireland at Wexford General Hospital.
In between, she also makes home visits to the sick and elderly members of the congregation and attends ecumenical meetings.
Nicola describes her decision to join the clergy as one which she did not take lightly, but something that felt natural at the same time.
'I have taken my holy orders and have vowed to be a priest for life,' she says.
The ordination ceremony itself was a momentous occasion for Nicola and for Ronan, her husband of five years.
As part of her preparation, she undertook a Masters in Theology. 'This meant lots of late nights studying. I was up all night writing essays and my husband was a great support to me through all of this,' she says.
The couple have relocated to Killinick from Athy, where Nicola was previously posted to complete a part of her ministerial training.
Ronan, who is a qualified golf instructor, showed no hesitation when it became clear that as part of Nicola's work the couple would have to up sticks and relocate at different points in her career.
Nicola's introduction to her husband came about through a family connection. 'Our families were friends so we sort of always knew of each other,' she says.
The couple have no children, but while Nicola reveals it is not something they have ruled out, the focus of all their love and attention is their new puppy - Yogi Bear.
Between work and home life, Nicola strives to find time for hobbies that include listening to music.
'I have a dreadful taste in music!' she jokes, revealing that Jay Z, Kings of Leon, Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé all feature in her CD collection.
'It's not what you might expect from a priest I suppose.'
As a former swimming teacher, she has a sporty side too and is hopeful that her hectic schedule will allow her some time in the future to get back into tag rugby, which she confesses that she 'absolutely loves'.
When she can she likes to find time for a drink with Ronan at their new local, the Coopers Inn in Killinick, but she says that being on duty on a Sunday morning prevents her from painting the town red!
She is mindful of the role which a priest can have in the life of younger members of the congregation. and hopes that most of her work in Wexford will focus on youth leadership.
'At the moment there is no youth club in the diocese, but I would like to get one up and running,' she says.
A Church of Ireland youth club would, according to Reverend Halford, incorporate many activities including DVD nights at her house.
This, she says, is a tried and tested way of getting young people to explore different moral issues.
'I tried this before while I was working in Athy and it really went down well,' she says. 'We watched Captain America at my house with popcorn and afterwards we discussed the moral and religious implications of things that happened during the film.'
Wexford's new Church of Ireland reverend has a long list of objectives which she hopes will come to pass during her time in Wexford. She reckons she has about three years to fulfil her ambitions for Wexford before Ronan and herself have to pack up and move on all over again.