"A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one"
St Philip Neri
The chaplaincy is led by Fr Neil Ritchie, the chaplain, who is supported by Sr Rachel FCJ and Ciarán McConnell, the chaplaincy assistant. The chaplaincy is normally open Monday-Thursday between 9 am - 1 pm with access from the side gate off Blackburne place (check the updates here). Either Fr Neil or Ciarán is normally around then if you ever need to pass by to talk or use the Chaplaincy Centre for study or relaxation. You may also like to use the garden in the warmer months!
what do we offer?
• Mass and prayer opportunities
• A chance to discover and deepen your Catholic faith
• Visiting speaker on themes to do with the Catholic faith
• Opportunities for social action and charitable work
• Social events
• Most of all, a place of friendship and hospitality
and what do students say about the chaplaincy?
“a home from home…”
“an ‘open space’ – not a clique”
“a place of stability”
“somewhere you can be accepted”
“a place where you can be yourself”
“being supported in living out my Catholic faith”
“a place of happiness, joy, and the Spirit”
“somewhere you can get advice and help from peers”
the chaplaincy team
Fr Neil Ritchie
0151 709 3858
Father Neil was born and grew up in Aberdeen. On leaving the school he came to Liverpool to study at what was then the City of Liverpool College of Higher Education and graduated in Psychology and Education Studies in 1985. He trained for the priesthood at the English College, Valladolid and Ushaw College, Durham, and was ordained for the Archdiocese of Liverpool in 1992. He worked in various parishes for 14 years, latterly as parish priest of Twelve Apostles and Our Lady of the Rosary parishes, Leigh. During this time he also obtained a Diploma in Counselling from the University of Salford. In 2008 he was awarded a Licentiate in Theological Ethics from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, after which he joined the teaching staff of Ushaw College, Durham. On its closure in 2011, he was invited to join the clinical staff of St Luke's Centre, Manchester, which offers psychological services to the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
In 2017, he was appointed chaplain to the University of Liverpool and John Moores University by Archbishop McMahon. This was doubly apposite since Fr Neil had been received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 1983, through the University Catholic Chaplaincy (then situated on Mount Pleasant), and also because the college he had studied at became part of Liverpool Polytechnic – later John Moores University – during his time there.
Fr Neil has close connections with the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). He has a long-standing interest in both flying (he was awarded a private pilot's license in 2014) and railways, and also enjoys reading and films. He gets home to Scotland to visit his family two or three times a year.
Sr Rachel Duffy
Sr. Rachel Duffy has been a member of the chaplaincy team since 2011-12. She was born and grew up in Preston, Lancashire, a town with a strong Catholic tradition. Soon after leaving school, she joined the Sisters Faithful Companions of Jesus (www.fcjsisters.org) and after the first profession came to Liverpool in 1970 and studied English Language and Literature in Liverpool University, back in the days when essays were written in fountain pen and the internet had not been invented – how times have changed! She taught English at secondary school level for eleven years, in Salford and Hertfordshire. The next three years were spent in spiritual renewal, theological study and twelve months apprenticeship in Craighead Jesuit Retreat and Conference Centre near Glasgow.
From 1988 – 2003 she was in Manila in the Philippines, supporting the formation of young religious sisters, working with basic Christian communities, youth groups, volunteer catechists and a scholarship program for children from dumpsite scavenger families; and after a sabbatical year in California she spent a further seven years in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, involved in religious formation and once again doing some formal teaching, this time in the English Language department of Sanata Dharma Jesuit University. She came back to the UK at the end of 2011 and was invited to volunteer in the chaplaincy, filling the gap left by another sister who had recently had to withdraw because of illness. She also trained to volunteer with The Reader Organisation (www.thereader.org.uk) whose motto is “Great Literature Bringing People Together” marrying delight in poetry with the joys of companionship and conversation.
It continues to be a privilege to welcome all the amazing people who come through the doors of our beautiful chaplaincy and to share, in however small a way, in our common search for whatever is deepest, truest and best in life, in the light of our most precious gift, our faith, and our calling to live, love and serve in union with Jesus Christ.
Ciarán was born in 1991 and raised in St. Helens, with his mother born in Warrington, Cheshire and his father from Blackrock, Dundalk, Co. Louth (where Ciarán was baptised). He studied English Literature at Bangor University and wrote his undergraduate dissertation on concepts of identity in twentieth century Irish drama.
Ciarán spent the 5 years before joining the Chaplaincy team working as a Learning Support Assistant for children/young people with additional needs. He found his strength in this field was when working with those with behavioural and emotional difficulties. He saw first-hand the importance of compassion and pastoral support in a setting and culture ever-more geared to ‘results’.
Ciarán joined the Lourdes Music Group in 2007. The sanctuary and the group’s charism and bond had a transformed Ciarán’s life and faith journey and he has returned to Lourdes every year since barring 2015. That year he accompanied the ‘Holy Land Co-ordination’ as an observer, staying in Galilee, Bethlehem and one night on the Gaza strip. As well as Jerusalem and other holy sites, he visited a school in Gaza and Bethlehem University, meeting and speaking with students trying to learn and better themselves in an often-difficult environment.
Outside of Chaplaincy life, Ciarán is a professional wrestling trainer and promoter with one of his trainees embarking on his second tour of Canada in the winter at just 19 years old. He was also once in the same documentary as Hulk Hogan. Ciarán is an avid tea drinker, enjoys comedy, singing and good Guinness.