independent

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Saving souls and saving lives

Fr James Cullen blessing the boats at Wexford Quayfront earlier this year
Fr James Cullen blessing the boats at Wexford Quayfront earlier this year
Fr James ready for duty with the RNLI

Simon Bourke

'The only time I won't be on call is when I'm saying Mass,' says Fr James Cullen as he prepares for his first Christmas as an on-call member of the Wexford RNLI.

It might be his busiest time of the year, but the priest from the Presbytery on School Street will happily forego whatever free time he has to guarantee the safety of those at sea.

'I started with the search and rescue a little over a year ago but this will be my first Christmas wearing a lifeboat pager on my belt. I won't wear it while I'm on the altar but it will be with me at all other times,' said Fr James.

'We try to have the boat launched within 7-15 mins of the pager going off. A lot of us live locally so once the beeper goes we get there as quickly as we can.'

Having been talked into coming along to the lifeboat station by his friend Martin Conway, Fr James has fully immersed himself in his new role, even travelling to Poole to undergo additional training.

'I recently went on my sea survival course at the RNLI's training college in Poole with two other lifeboat volunteers from Wexford RNLI, Jo and Lesa, and it's given me more confidence out on the lifeboat.'

'We deal with every type of callout and I find enormous pleasure in bringing loved ones home to their families. Not every callout makes headlines but each one brings comfort to those who see the lifeboat coming. When I'm out on the lifeboat I am just like any other lifeboat volunteer and I feel part of the lifeboating community around the country. My pastoral role has come in very handy and of course I am called on for the annual blessing of the boats during the Wexford Marine Festival,' he said.

Last year at Wexford's five RNLI lifeboat stations at Courtown, Wexford, Rosslare, Kilmore Quay and Fethard, the volunteer lifeboat crew launched 55 times and brought 109 people to safety.

And, as Christmas approaches, the RNLI is issuing a call for help.

The charity is facing a 'Perfect Storm' with more people than ever needing its help, meaning support from the public is crucial at this time of year.

To ensure the RNLI can continue its lifesaving work this Christmas and into the future, the charity is running a fundraising appeal called The Perfect Storm and are calling on people to make a donation this Christmas to ensure they can continue saving lives at sea.

To support the RNLI's Perfect Storm, appeal this Christmas, helping to ensure the charity's volunteers can continue saving lives at sea, visit RNLI.org/ThePerfectStorm

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