Visitors to Minsteracres may already have met Fr Frank Trias, on loan to us from the Passionist Province of St Patrick. As a recent addition to the community, and indeed to the priesthood (he was ordained in 2015), Fr Frank brings a wealth of new experience for us to draw on.
He arrived from his first posting at Mount Argus in Dublin, a large urban parish where he shared pastoral duties with the other priests and where he was involved in a thriving youth ministry.
A hint of this was evident when, invited to perform at the recent Burn’s Night supper, he delighted fellow diners with Burns-related rap and dispensed Tunnocks teacakes to all and sundry. Undoubtedly a first at this regular event!
Born in Glasgow to a Catholic family, the young Frank left school at 17 and started his working life in sales, at one point with a successful office supplies team which together regularly netted £20-30,000 per day.
“I had a good job that I was happy with and a good social life. I loved my life!” he says. “In all that time I had kept in touch with my church, unlike my friends, and gradually, going to mass and listening to the scriptures I made friends in the church – older guys who shared their experiences with me. I realised I was getting more serious about my involvement with the church.
“This was a Passionist community living and praying together and doing good outreach with refugees and young people. It spoke to me. My heart bled for the people I met living on the margins.”
Frank began to make enquiries and started asking his parish priest (“he says I pestered him!”) about vocational support. This led in 2005 to them reinstating long dormant vocational weekends in which Frank was an enthusiastic contributor.
His first application for the novitiate was turned down. “I couldn’t make sense of it,” he says, “But then I felt I didn’t need to. They suggested I get more education so I gave up my job at that point. They also encouraged me to keep going to the vocational weekends and eventually I was invited to apply again.”
His persistence paid off and he was finally accepted in 2009. “By that stage I had given up on the idea of a job, relationships and family life. It was tough to adjust, but modern communications helped – for example I could keep in touch with my family through Skype.”
The adjustment was not just Frank’s, “They hadn’t had students in around 20 years and the world had changed a lot in that time. It became a big melting pot of learning together.”
After six years of formal training Fr Frank was ordained.
The transition from a cathedral-sized church and thriving youth ministry to Minsteracres has been challenging, but Fr Frank has lent his experience and learning to the retreat team and hopes to contribute further with audio/visual production learned along his journey.
He’s not without surprises though. Once you think you’ve got the measure of him he’ll drop into conversation that, on the rare occasion he escapes from Minsteracres, his favourite haunt in nearby Hexham is the Little Mexico café where he likes to eat nachos and watch Mexican wrestling.
I feel a rap coming on………