Ben Reney



A brother's story: Carmel has been my life

I was born in Galway in the West of Ireland in 1920. My family were boat builders making the traditional Galway Hookers. These are great boats for fishing and for bringing down supplies. They have great speed and are good in all weathers. My eldest brother, Michael, followed my father in the boatbuilding, but there wasn't enough business to support all of us.

I suppose that you would say that ours was a traditional Catholic home; mother would pray the rosary with us children every night before bed and didn't take kindly to it if we started messing around. Our faith was just a part of life. My mother and father were good people with a solid faith but they didn't go over the top. They taught us to always have respect for other people. They never had a holiday in their lives.

After secondary school I left for England and worked in a factory near Aylesbury and then moved to London to another factory where I did shift work on the boilers. Thankfully most of the time they didn't have to be stoked by hand; it was hard work though. When the stoking machine broke down and we had to get our shovels! I love football and we used to go and watch Arsenal every second Sunday.

I never lost my religion. One day I went with a couple of friends down to Aylesford in Kent where the Carmelite brothers were beginning to re-build their old home and I heard Fr. Malachy preaching. He was the prior, and full of enthusiasm about life. I began to ask myself about what I was doing with my life and the idea came as to why I was doing what I was doing when I could be working for God.

I decided to join the Carmelites. My mother was worried when I told her. She thought that I would be getting up in the middle of the night to pray. This wasn't the case; anyway we needed a good night's sleep for all the work we had to do. These were the days after the war and there was nothing to be had. Fr. Malachy was a great ideas man and nothing seemed impossible for him but he wanted everything doing yesterday! I was young then and didn't mind the work. I worked with one of the carpenters - there was plenty to do.

After Aylesford I worked helping to set up other Carmelite houses and now I'm back living in London. After I got too old for hard work I was able to do some A Levels. I've always enjoyed maths and I've always painted when I had a bit of spare time. I built a scale model of a Hooker from scratch and now it's in a museum down by the quay in Galway.

At the time when I was thinking of joining the Carmelites I was very confused and I had all sorts of questions. I have no regrets. God has been very good to me and even with all the ups and downs of life deep down I know I've done the right thing. The brothers here take good care of me and I can still do my bit to help. I'm happy I did what I did in joining a religious order.

God has been very good, I've no regrets.