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Molly Deatherage is the pastor of three Presbyterian churches in Ireland. The churches are in Ballina, Ballymote and Killala. She is shown standing in front of the pulpit of her church in Ballina.
The voice of Rev. Molly Deatherage has yet to betray her.
Deatherage, a 1971 graduate of La Grande High School, is in her sixth-year in Ireland and Northern Ireland but has yet to develop even a trace of an Irish accent.The Presbyterian minister hopes her manner of speaking never changes for this will preserve her American identify, one she cherishes, one serving her well in Ireland.
“The Irish really like Americans, we are interesting to them,’’ Deatherage said. “They just don’t like Americans telling them what to do.’’
Deatherage is not imposing her will on the people of Ireland, but she is doing what comes naturally, extending a helping hand to many while pointing their lives in the right direction.
She is completing her eighth month as an ordained minister after graduating from Union Theological College at Queen’s University in Belfast.
Deatherage’s energies are now focused on the families who attend the three parishes she is pastor of in Southern Ireland. It sounds like a daunting task. But Deatherage insists it is not, noting that the parishes, in the towns of Ballina, Ballymote and Killala, are no more than a pleasant one-hour drive away and that her largest parish has just 17 families.
She is enjoying reaching out to the members of her parishes.
“I am learning to develop their gifts. I have a ministry of encouragement,’’ Deatherage said.
In Ireland and Northern Ireland, Deatherage has been struck by how strong the line is between Protestants and Catholics. Churches do not try to win converts.
This Presbyterian church in Killala, Ireland, of which Molly Deatherage is the pastor, was built sometime between 1824 and 1842.
“Churches do not take one from the other,’’ Deatherage said. “There is not a lot of sheep stealing.’’
Life in Ireland moves at a casual pace, slower than that of Eastern Oregon. Deatherage noted that she once heard someone ask what is the Irish word for “manana,” which is “tomorrow” in Spanish. The individual was told there is not one.
“We do not have any word (in the Irish language) with that sense of urgency,’’ the person was told.
Deatherage lives in Ballina near the May River. The river has a huge run of Atlantic salmon, which return from the ocean to spawn each summer. Ballina holds a one-week festival every year to celebrate the salmon run.
The salmon festival draws about 200,000 people, dramatically swelling Ballina, which is about the size of La Grande. Conditions become cramped in Ballina — but nobody complains during the celebration.
“The Irish are always up for a party,’’ Deatherage said.
Deatherage is in the midst of the third major international venture of her life. Her first such experience was in China, where she was for four years from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. She taught English to university students north of Beijing. She was in China in June 1989 when the government violently suppressed a student uprising in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. She did not witness the uprising but said that being in China at that time influenced her outlook on life.
Deatherage later went to Mongolia for 10 years. There she helped raise about a dozen orphaned children in Ulan Bator.
Taking in orphans, though, was not the only way Deatherage made a difference in Mongolia. She also helped found a Head Start-style program for Mongolian children. The school helps children ages 3 to 7 whose families could not afford public preschool and kindergarten.
Deatherage’s experiences in China and Mongolia have served her well since she became a minister.
“I always have a story from Mongolia or China I can share.’’
Her international experiences have taught Deatherage how to adapt well to overseas situations. She said a key to doing this is being ready and willing to adapt to the unexpected.
“Rather than be surprised, know that there will be cultural differences,’’ said Deatherage, who returned to La Grande earlier this month and is now back in Ireland.
Her mother, Helen Deatherage, and sister, Meleah Sheehy, live in La Grande.
Molly Deatherage’s La Grande ties also include EOU. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Eastern in 1975 and a master’s degree in education in 1988.
Deatherage, 58, said she believes she is answering her true calling by becoming a minister.
“I have always loved God and the Bible.’’
The new minister speaks like she can’t wait for what each new day holds for her in Ireland.
“I’m still excited. I’m very happy about it.‘’
She embraces her new life path.
“A lot of people my age are retiring, but I’m launching out on a new challenge.’’