Vivienne Morrow-Murtagh founded ACET Ireland’s education and training service in 1992. She is a trained counsellor and psychotherapist accredited to the Irish Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. Vivienne continues to work alongside ACET clients and staff.
Although I knew about the work of ACET in the UK, I first heard of the embryonic ACET Ireland and of Gary Crothers when phoning my future husband Brian in
his home in Straffan back in the 80s. Gary and Maurice Adams (from ACET UK) were staying with Brian whilst they held their first meeting in Ireland to discuss setting up the organisation. Some time after that, I first met Gary when I asked a debonair, handsome usher outside the Ormond hotel in Dublin for directions to the first ACET meeting in Dublin. The usher turned out to be Gary, and those first chuckles of laughter did indeed usher in some 20 years of friendship with the man who started ACET in Ireland. I was drawn through Gary’s professionalism, prophetic gifting, friendship and vision into this wonderful organisation which being established.
That same night at the Ormond Hotel I met with Maurice Adams and I was encouraged to set up the education department. That night, I met for the second time the woman who is now my dear friend and my almost-lifetime colleague, Terrie. In my first visit to Terrie’s home some weeks earlier, we both had had a real sense of being in God’s perfect timing and plan. Terrie had a passion for caring which has never diminished. I was to be amazed by her efficiency and care after that first night: we had left behind baby Nathan’s shoes, which she posted to my home. Her early efficiency has never wavered.
I suppose we three together were privileged to spearhead the organisation in Dublin. It is only as I try to put pen to paper that I realise the extraordinary levels of trust and love and faithfulness that were established and have grown to this day between us.
Early days in education were sensitive in an Ireland whose institutions were still slow to talk about sex and HIV and AIDS. We were amazed nonetheless as each invitation to teach seemed to spawn several others, and in no time we were in demand in schools, colleges, and Christian organisations. The manna always seemed to fall as the need and opportunities grew. ACET truly appeared to be part of God’s provision for the people of Dublin and the deep organic link to ACET Northern Ireland always brought additional depth, insight, fellowship and blessings.
As education expanded and grew and a shift in the climate came, young people would come wanting to talk about wounding experiences in their young lives. As an organisation, we realised we had a responsibility in some cases to hold and contain these people in a more in-depth way. Gary, Brian and I met in Belfast with qualified psychotherapists to discuss the situation and it was decided that I should embark on the long and arduous course of training to be a qualified psychotherapist. Gary then encouraged me, after several years, to let go of the education work and give myself more fully to training and therapy within the organisation. I was reluctant to hand it over, but with a few clear words from God I agreed, and who should appear to take over the education work but that other wonderful man who has become a solid pillar of ACET: Richard Carson. And the rest is history!
One of the education policies in those early days was that those involved in education should also have a period of volunteering with home care so that education was not just cerebral but delivered from a heartfelt experience of seeing how people affected by HIV were living their lives. I became a home care volunteer. I have many colourful stories of Terrie and me heading together into unknown territory only to be welcomed and embraced, and only ever occasionally chased!
We have known the extraordinary privilege down the years to serve and love and challenge, and be loved and be challenged by our hundreds of clients.