After six years as Legion Envoy, Jerry decided to study, going first to Mexico, where he did a course in communications and was honoured as the best foreign student. He then received a scholarship to Stanford University in California, where he acquired two Master’s Degrees and a Doctorate in Philosophy.
During his time in Stanford, the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference invited him back to work as intermediary between the Church and the government in organising a programme for all non-formal education, which he did, while also lecturing in Communication and the Ethics of Communication in the Catholic University in Caracas.
Jerry’s work in non-formal education – training young people in apprenticeship and employment programmes – was akin to his early days working in Keogh Square.
Similar to Irish FÁS courses, but with a spiritual dimension, the students could learn trades as diverse as hair-cutting or bread-making or they could train as mechanics, etc. These young people could then come off the streets and become bread-winners for their families.
Jerry had high expectations of his young students feeling that if they wanted to get on, to have a full spiritual life, to later be able to serve the nation, they should give of their best. Over 50 years, he set up some 500 training centres and worked with thousands of students.
To each student he strove to offer a lifestyle higher, more noble, and more spiritual than what they were used to.
In the early 90’s, Jerry was appointed to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications as liaison man for communications between the Vatican and the Latin-American Church. In this capacity he met Pope John Paul II at least eight times. He was extremely busy but his wife, Freda, and their two daughters Geraldine and Edel, fully supported him.
Jerry was completely surprised and very moved to be awarded the knighthood in the Order of St Gregory in August 2005. It was presented to him by Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas, who, fittingly, is himself a Legion man. Jerry, even in later life, has done his best to truly live up to this award.
Jerry and Freda now live in Cork city since their return to Ireland two years ago after what has been a truly remarkable and fruitful life in Venezuela.