My name is Brendan McKenna.
I was born again on the back of a bus on the way from Mullingar to Galway in Ireland on May 7th 1980. That was after 18 months of questioning and 6 months of prayer by friends of mine. The reason I knew something significant had happened is that the Bible, which until then had been a most boring and unreadable book, became something through which God started speaking to me in a very real way. The words seemed to jump from the page. That was not to say the Bible had changed but the barrier between me and God was now out of the way because of faith in Christ’s death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit was free to talk to me. He has been doing that ever since.
Over 30 years later and I’m now married to a godly woman for 20 years and we have been gifted with three lovely children. We attend a living and growing church (www.openarms.ie) where God continues to speak to us. We serve and are served and things are about as healthy as they should be in a local church as far as I can judge those things.
My father, Patrick McKenna, was born on a small rural farm near Athboy, County Meath, Ireland in 1937 just two years before the second world war broke out. Ireland was neutral during this war so he and his 6 siblings (4 more boys and 2 girls) weren’t much affected. However, the poverty they had been born into was made worse by the rationing of food and other items that had to take place during that time. He went to the local national school until the age of 13. He remembers having to walk barefoot to school but not finding that much hardship. After that he worked with his father, my grandfather, Brendan McKenna, on the farm.
However, the farm could not sustain them all and his older brother left to find work in England as so many Irish people did at that time. My father soon followed him and, at the age of 17, ended up working in the kitchen of a pub that his brother had found work in. During that time people were not very gentle when training people in so he learnt the hard way how to clean things properly. Some years after arriving in London, my father found work with the Guinness brewery in London. This was much better paid and the employees were looked after well. This put him in a better position to start looking for a wife. He soon found her.
My mother, Catherine Donnellan, was also born in Ireland on a small farm in Tuam, Co. Galway in 1934. She was the youngest of 7 (1 boy and 5 more girls) and, if anything, the poverty she endured was worse than my father’s. However, being the youngest, all her siblings spoilt her and she became a joyous soul buoyed up by her love of life and her faith. Two of her older sisters became nuns. There wasn’t much choice in those days as to what you could do as a girl. The older of the two sisters was happy with being a nun but the younger wasn’t. My mother was luckier. She was able to get training as a nurse in England and went there around the same time as my father.
My father and mother were part of the close knit Irish Roman Catholic community in London. Through the social events of this community they met, were attracted to one another, got married and moved into a house in Harrow, Middlesex, London. A year later they had me followed by my brother a year and quarter after that. I have two other brothers which my mother had when I was 9 and 13 respectively.
Recently, I started looking through our family tree and found that my father is descended, on his father’s side, from a long list of McKenna’s. There are records of his ancestors going back 9 generations ending with a John McKenna who moved to Ardee, Co. Louth Ireland in the early 1600’s: