Tag Archives: bishop brendan kelly

Eucharistic Adoration Committee Homily

Text of homily preached at Mass in St James’ Church, Charlestown to launch recently trained Diocesan Team to oversee and develop Eucharistic Adoration in the Diocese of Achonry.


The rulers, elders and scribes were astonished at the assurance shown by Peter and John, considering they were uneducated laymen”, the first Reading today tells us.

After that,  in the Gospel, we find that when Mary of Magdala told the disciples that Jesus had appeared to her, “they did not believe her when they heard her say that he was alive and that she had seen him”.

Neither did the rest of the apostles believe their two companions who said they had met Jesus on the road.

Incredulity and obstinacy” the Gospel today tells us, is what Jesus himself encountered in the eleven. And yet – to these doubting, unbelieving and obstinate men he entrusted his entire mission:

Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation!”

People who were considered “uneducated laymen”!

There is a depth and a mystery here that is worth pondering. And particularly in the light of what we are doing here today, what we are beginning: the commissioning of a Diocesan Eucharistic Adoration Committee, made up entirely of laymen and women.

Pope Francis never ceases to emphasise that the mission of the Church is not, and never has been that of Clergy and Religious only. It is entrusted to ALL believers.

Declaring one person ‘better’ or more ‘elevated’ than another is not in Jesus’ way of seeing things. We don’t all have the same mission. But we all have THE mission and we are ALL missionaries. Like Mary of Magdala, we are called to share the Good News, our own experience of faith, what we have heard and seen.

You are people who have come to a deep appreciation of the Holy Eucharist. You’ve come to love silence and adoration, spending time before the Blessed Sacrament. You are now assuming responsibility for this practice throughout our parishes with the blessing of the diocese and the Bishop. What you love is your gift and is now your mission. ‘How much children and young people long to be led into reverence, and to stillness’, a secondary school teacher said to me recently. And it is so critical that we do lead people to stillness and reverence, to adoration: it will redress the balance in a world where there is far too much careless exploitation of people and of mother earth. All that the church stands for and that Jesus stands for has much to do with reverence and respect: looking at, marveling and enjoying, never just using or consuming. The utilitarian attitude is destroying people and our world. Everything we stand for as Christians and as Church particularly in the matter of caring for the sick and disabled, and in the teaching we propose on sexuality, human relationships, and fidelity – all of these are entirely connected to the attitude of reverence and respect which Jesus proposes. This is the attitude Eucharistic Adoration nurtures. It was never so badly needed in the world.

The Holy Eucharist is foundational and central to the Christian scheme of things. It is the summit and the source of all Christian life, as the Second Vatican Council pointed out. You are people who have come to appreciate this. And so you are men and women of prayer, contemplation and adoration. As members of this committee, committed to Eucharistic Adoration, you do yourselves what you show to others and will now lead them to, please God, all over our diocese.  Eucharistic Adoration has the power to transform our diocese, our parishes and our homes, too, and all our relationships.

And as you adore, please pray for vocations. We need the priesthood, if we are to have the Eucharist and if the deep longing for Eucharist which lives in the hearts of all true believers is to be satisfied.

Bishop Eamonn Casey Funeral

The following is the text of the homily preached by Bishop Brendan Kelly at the Funeral Mass for the Late Bishop Eamonn Casey, R.I.P.

“Indeed I promise you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

These are amongst the loveliest words that Jesus spoke. Is there a man or a woman amongst us who wouldn’t love to hear them spoken to us; the promise, the assurance, our deepest hope fulfilled? … Paradise!

May we hear these words today, and may we be as humble, honest and repentant as the man hanging on another cross beside Jesus.

With God, all things are possible. All healing, all reconciliation, all peace. This is where we believers take our stand. And this is why when we come together to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we always begin with where we ourselves are at. We begin on our knees, aware of our sin… heart sorrowful and repentant.

This must apply in the first place to those of us entrusted by the Holy Spirit with a greater responsibility in the service of God’s people. I speak of those of us who are priests and bishops particularly. Saint Patrick sixteen hundred years ago began his Confessio with the words, ‘I am Patrick, a sinner…’. Pope Francis too is deeply aware of this truth. When asked at the beginning of his Petrine ministry, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” After a pause he said quietly, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech. I am a sinner”. He later added, “but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ”. So must we.

Eamonn Casey, whose mortal remains are with us today in this Cathedral, had a long life as priest and bishop. He did much good. As a young priest with the Emigrant Mission in London, he enabled many young couples to acquire their first home, to rise out of tenements and homelessness and thereby anchor their families in positive community environments. Later, back in Ireland, as bishop, in Kerry first and then in Galway, he acquired an even bigger profile as a man of energy and initiative. He was a doer. Not just within his dioceses, but on the national and international scene with the development, from 1973, of Trocáire, and as a defender of the rights of people who were oppressed and poor. He is particularly remembered for his courage as he attended dozens of stricken people when soldiers opened fire and many people were killed and injured at Archbishop – now ‘Blessed’ - Oscar Romero’s funeral in San Salvador in March 1980.

There are those of us who remember, with gratitude, his kindness and encouragement when personally we most needed it.

Then 25 years ago, the emergence into the light of other hidden realities in his life, beginning with the fact that he had a son, Peter, were profoundly upsetting for the Church and for people in general.

This is neither the time nor the place to go over the details which in any case are very well known, not only in Ireland, but all over the world. Yes, we are all sinners, but irresponsibility, infidelity and sin are particularly shocking in the lives of those who preach the Gospel. In 1992 Bishop Eamonn resigned and left the country. He expressed his sorrow many times, apologised and asked for forgiveness. He spent a number of years working on the missions in South America, and later in the south of England, before eventually coming home to live in Shanaglish, Co Galway.

But people had been hurt and wounded … wounds that do not always heal easily or quickly. We remember these people too today. We acknowledge their suffering. We pray for continued healing and peace for them.

Bishop Casey’s health deteriorated further on Ash Wednesday, the day on which believers make their way to churches to receive the mark of the ashes on their forehead. “Dust you are, to dust you shall return.” The road to Calvary begins. We walk that hard road with Jesus through Lent, recognising our own need for redemption and committed with him by the repentance the ashes signifies, to the Father’s saving project for all people. Ash Wednesday this year marked the beginning of the last stage in Bishop Eamonn’s life journey.

Calvary though is not the end for Jesus. Neither is Calvary the end for those who take Jesus’ word to heart today and follow him. Not because we don’t fail again and again, we do and we will, but because we trust in that same promise of Jesus to the repentant sinner on the cross beside him: “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. Mercy has the last word on Calvary and for all who, like that ‘good thief’, turn to Jesus in faith. May it be so for Eamonn Casey and for all of us. For that we pray today. In that Good News we put our trust.

Suaimhneas síoraí tabhair dó, a Thiarna, agus go lonnraí an solas bhuan mharthanach air. Go bhfaighe a anam, agus anamnacha na bhfírein uile trócaire ó Dhia agus cónaí faoi shíocháin. Améin.

Calvary though is not the end for Jesus. Neither is Calvary the end for those who take Jesus’ word to heart today and follow him. Not because we don’t fail again and again, we do and we will, but because we trust in that same promise of Jesus to the repentant sinner on the cross beside him: “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. Mercy has the last word on Calvary and for all who, like that ‘good thief’, turn to Jesus in faith. May it be so for Eamonn Casey and for all of us. For that we pray today. In that Good News we put our trust.

+Brendan Kelly

Catholic Schools Week 2017

Bishop Brendan was Principal Celebrant at Diocesan Mass celebrating Catholic Schools Week. The Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral of The Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghaderreen and was co-ordinated by Srs Regina Lydon and Mary Richardson, Diocesan Advisors to Primary Schools.  Children from schools throughout the diocese, together with families and teachers were in attendance.  Many of the priests of the diocese were also present.

We include here some photos from the celebration.  Many thanks to all who took part. It was a worthy celebration of school life in our diocese.

Christmas Prayer

A Christmas Reflection

‘Do you have a prayer for me this Christmas?’ the question came on the phone.

A prayer I’d like to make for all of us this Christmas goes something like this:

May the birth of the Christ-child be a blessing for each one, and for every one of our families. May  the sight of the Crib be a source of new hope and of joy for all our hearts: there is so much more to this family ‘for whom there was no room’ than meets the eye.

Family is at the heart of Christmas from the very beginning.  Family and home. This is one reason why we love the Christmas. We long to be home at Christmas and we all long for home. May that deep longing be fulfilled for each of us.

Our Holy Father’s Prayer to the Holy Family stands beside the Crib in every Church in the country this year as we begin our journey of preparation for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin at the end of August 2018. Please God, we will welcome Pope Francis himself amongst us for that occasion. He is as passionate about family as he is about mercy, to which he had this past year dedicated in the Church. Let us each pray this Prayer to the Holy Family from Christmas Day on, and with our families best of all.

For many people Christmas is a time when pain, loss and loneliness are all the sharper. Often home and family do not live up to our longing, or only do so very imperfectly. We all know this. We are made of such fragile and delicate stuff : is that why He came amongst us as a tiny baby? And in extreme poverty?

Family nevertheless is central to God’s design, and imaged in our deep hearts’ core. ‘It is not good for the human person to be alone’. Family is necessary. That’s the story of Christmas, God’s story from the beginning, and ours.

Isn’t it because of this deep need for the communion of family that the gift-giving, the greetings and the good wishes pre-occupy our preparations? Even if we go overboard, and the commercial takes too much space, somewhere the best of us is being played out too at the prompting of Christmas.

In a world still plagued by violence and unwelcome, by unspeakable terror and inhumanity, Christmas will not let us forget the goodness that is in us, and rekindles every year the warm flames of care and love that makes us our best selves, and calls us to be family. To be human is to be good. In the Creation story, after he had created man and woman, God looked and saw that what he had created was not just ‘good’, like the rest of his creation, but ‘very good’. Jesus was born lest we forget that fundamental goodness that is in us. He is Emmanuel, God-with-us. In human flesh and blood like us.

 God is born to us in the little Child in the manger…and by extension in every child and person consigned in our 21st Century to the outhouse of life. But he is born too every time we choose generosity and welcome, eschewing fear, sharing what we have, and trusting in the future precisely because it is in God’s hands, he who is our merciful Father.

As we pray then for all who are suffering and unable to really celebrate Christmas, we also give thanks to God for the wondrous generosity and self-giving that marks this time: together these two realities make Christmas, in the light of Jesus born for us on Calvary as at Bethlehem, a sacred season. And praying together, even if separated, we are family. Family of God.

Nollaig mhaith go raibh agaibh ar fad.

+Brendan Kelly

Bishop of Achonry

John Paul 11 Awards

The diocese of Achonry had its first presentation of the (St) John Paul 11 Awards this evening (November 21st) in St Nathy’s College, Ballaghderreen.  Bishop Brendan Kelly presented the awards to nineteen students from throughout the diocese in the presence of their families, teachers and friends.  Members of the Knights of St Columbanus were also in attendance.  This first group, though small, is seen as a very important development in the diocese.  Monica Morley spoke to the gathering and encouraged the young people to keep deeply involved in their church, making the point that Parish is the touchstone.  Bishop Brendan thanked the young people and congratulated them on their achievements.  Three of the recipients spoke of their journey through the awards process and it was evident the journey had been good for them.  Activities included volunteering in St Vincent de Paul Shop, being part of the youth group on our Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes, helping a local priest edit and publish the parish bulletin, joining Folk Group, being Ministers of The Word and much more.  All in all, impressive presentations by impressive young people.  Well done to them all.

The students were from secondary schools in Charlestown, Tubbercurry, Ballymote, Ballaghaderren and Ballisodare.  Fr Joe Gavigan, Chaplain to the Knights of St Columbanus, welcomed them all and wished them well.

Sisters of St Louis Kiltimagh

On Sunday, October 9th 2016, Bishop Brendan was Principal Celebrant at Mass in Kiltimagh.  The Mass was one of thanksgiving and farewell for the Sisters of St Louis, whose long link with Kiltimagh has come to an end.  Below is the text of the homily preached by Bishop Brendan on this sad but memorable occasion for the parish and the Sisters of St Louis.


St Louis Secondary School, Kiltimagh

St Louis Secondary School, Kiltimagh

Go mbeannaí Dia dhaoibh a phobail dílis Dé Choillte Mách. Is maith bheith libh inniu ar an ócaid buíoch, brónach, stairiúil seo: Slán le Siúracha Naomh Lughaidh.

I’m happy to be with you today for this Mass of Thanksgiving for the immense, immeasurable and irreplaceable contribution of the Sisters of St Louis to this parish and its people over one hundred and nineteen years. Our theme can only be thanksgiving, but it is tinged with a deep sense of sadness. The loss of a praying community, consecrated to God and to the welfare of his people, particularly the most needy, that loss to this parish and to the entire diocese is a great one.

The Gospel today is apt for the occasion. The leper who came back to Jesus when he found himself cured ‘threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him’

That is exactly what we are doing here today in this Mass, metaphorically: throwing ourselves at the feet of Jesus and thanking him for 119 years of the dedicated service and faithful presence of the Sisters of St Louis in our midst, as parish and diocese. In doing so we throw ourselves too at your feet, sisters, in deep gratitude to you and all those St Louis Sisters who have served here all the way back to the arrival here of the first six sisters on the 14th of September, 1897.

The person responsible for what a newspaper of the day called ‘the home-bringing’ of the nuns to Kiltimagh was the great Fr Denis O Hara. The paper goes on to report that the ‘good nuns of St Louis’ arrived ‘amid the prayers and blessings of priests and people’…referring to the crowd that had gathered at the station to greet the sisters and accompany them to the new convent Fr Denis had had built for them. Today, the prayers and blessings of priests and people now accompany the final departure of the nuns, though these prayers and blessings are accompanied now more with sadness than celebration.

Today is October 9th, the feast of St Denis, when the girls in the St Louis Secondary school always got a free day. Such was the respect in which Fr Denis was always held and remembered by the sisters. I like to think that it’s no mere coincidence that we happen to be giving thanks to God for the sisters on this day. It is most surely the hand of Providence giving us a sign. What is happening now in October 2016 regarding the sisters and this parish is all part of God’s providential design. May we be able to discern truly its meaning for this parish and for the sisters in this year of Our Lord, 2016. That calls for deep faith and trust in the eternal wisdom and goodness of God towards us.

Around the time Fr Denis came here in 1887 as PP, a newspaper of the day described Kiltimagh as a ‘ruined hamlet of thatched hovels’. Fr Denis immediately set about improving the lot of the people. Within two years of his arrival, this magnificent Church was built and consecrated. By the time he convinced the Sisters of St Louis in Monaghan to come here in 1897 and provide education for girls, Fr Denis had been instrumental in establishing six primary schools in the parish, bringing the railway to Kiltimagh, in forcing landlords to lower rents. He was a steadfast in his support of Michael Davitt and the Land League, for the sake of the impoverished tenants.

But no project was dearer to this good man’s heart than convincing the St Louis sisters in Monaghan to come here. Fr Denis could see the value of an education for the local women and girls as part of his great dream of lifting the people here out of poverty, giving new hope and creating new opportunities for them, thus enabling them to cope and contribute confidently to building of family, community and society, be that at home or as emigrants, for emigration was the destiny of many from these parts.

Fr Denis chose well. Over the subsequent years, the sisters took charge first of the new girls primary school, then established the Technical school for women and girls, where practical skills – dressmaking, laundry, poultry-keeping and finer arts like lace-making were taught. Within 4 weeks of its opening, 80 girls and women were enrolled. The sisters travelled all around the area on foot encouraging and inviting the young ladies of the area to come. Then St Philomena’s boarding school was established, and soon acquired a reputation for excellence in education that was nation-wide. Later on in the 30’s a highly successful commercial school was established. Along with all of that the sisters were discreetly and always available to help people in their need and poverty, in whatever way they could.
It’s an extraordinary story of extraordinary achievement that must not be forgotten. It arouses a deep sense of admiration but most of all of gratitude in any decent heart. Such stories need telling and remembering in these days when a sense of unearned entitlement so often takes all the space and the capacity for generosity, service, self-sacrifice is not awakened and called forth in men and women. The question for us all now is how can these qualities, so evident in the story of the sisters of St Louis be enkindled and ignited in this generation? This is where a new evangelisation, a new connecting with the greatest story of hope ever lived, the story of Jesus, is called for. For it was out of faith in Jesus, and joyful intimacy with his word and way that the story and the contribution of the Sisters of St Louis in Kiltimagh was born and sustained over so many decades.

The changes that occurred from the 1960’s on – the government more and more taking responsibility for education and social welfare, free education, growing material prosperity, the opening up to the world that came with television, cheaper transport etc., saw the sisters adjusting – coeducation, decline in need for Boarding schools etc. Eventually the amalgamation with Scoil Raftearaí took place and the St Louis Community School was born. Vocations to the sisterhood declined and gradually the sisters withdrew, quietly and without fanfare or fuss, as always accepting the new and emerging reality as part of God’s mysterious plan.

And so we come to this day. This moment of Farewell. I’d like to quote what one of the sisters has written: ‘The sisters have given much, but they received much too in this community of Kiltimagh. It has been their home and a place of friendships, kindnesses, support, being church together and part of a community, especially in these latter years in Cordarragh. Many sisters are buried here, both in the former convent cemetery and in Kilkenure in the past 20 years.’ In other words, they are part forever of the story of this parish and community and for that are deeply grateful.

The story of the sisters here is one, like that of Fr Denis O Hara who brought them here, of building and serving the great ideal and command of Jesus: be community, not just individual. Build communion, that most holy thing. Servants of unity…of what Jesus prayed for at the very end: that they may all be one. The wisdom of God lives in lives that are faithful to his word: that is how that unity, that communion, is formed and grows. These were the values set in place by the founders of the St Louis story in France one hundred years exactly – 1797- before they came to Kiltimagh.

AS we look back today, sisters, over your presence here for 119 years, we see how faithfully you carried out and lived your founding ideals. Our hearts are full of gratitude then at this Mass as we remember, and we give God thanks for you. And as we pray his blessing on each and every one of you. This community, this parish, this diocese will not forget.

The Samaritan leper came back, we are told today. Crying out the praise of God, threw himself at the feet of Jesus, and thanked him. So do we thank God and thank you as we now celebrate this Holy Eucharist.

Lourdes Pilgrimage

Our Lady of Lourdes Pray for us

Our Lady of Lourdes
Pray for us

The Achonry and Killala annual joint diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes began on 23 August. This pilgrimage is the 42nd annual joint pilgrimage to Lourdes between the dioceses of Achonry and Killala and it will last five days, from 23 August until Sunday 28 August.

This year’s pilgrimage will be led by Bishop John Fleming, Bishop of Killala and by Bishop Brendan Kelly, Bishop of Achonry. Spiritual Directors for the pilgrimage are Father Tom Doherty, Killala Diocese, and Father John Maloney, Achonry Diocese.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, all pilgrims to Lourdes will have the special opportunity to enter through the Door of Mercy which is located at Saint Michael’s gate, near the Breton Cross in the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes.

Pilgrims from both dioceses departed today from Ireland West Airport Knock to Lourdes, the small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees which rose to prominence in 1858 due to the Marian apparitions seen by Bernadette Soubirous, who was later canonized.

Today, Lourdes hosts around six million visitors every year from all corners of the world. This constant stream of pilgrims and tourists transformed quiet Lourdes into the second most important centre of tourism in France, second only to Paris, and the third most important site of international Catholic pilgrimage after Rome and the Holy Land.

Centenary of Straide Parish Church

Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Straide, Co. Mayo 1916-2016

Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Straide, Co. Mayo
1916-2016

The centenary of the opening of the Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Straide, is being celebrated this year. On Sunday June 26th, the Parish Community of Straide joined in a Mass of Thanksgiving.  Bishop Brendan was Principal Celebrant at this special gathering and the text of his homily is printed here.


First of all, I just want to say how good it is to be here with you on this very special occasion for the parish and for this community of Faith. Thank you for inviting me.

‘As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the Road for Jerusalem’.

The road for Jerusalem. The meaning of the name Jerusalem is ‘City of Peace’. So, for the people of Israel, Jerusalem was no ordinary city. It was much more. The city of Jerusalem symbolised that place of peace every human person longs for in ‘the deep heart’s core’. This is why their religion demanded of them that they make the journey regularly.  We all know, for example, that Mary and Joseph brought their new baby Jesus up to the Temple to present him to the Lord. The Jewish religion, like our own Christian Faith is all about enabling men and women fulfil that deepest longing for peace that’s planted in our human hearts and psyche.

No wonder Jesus set his face for Jerusalem. He preaches and teaches primarily by example. He shows you and I the road to peace. That’s the deeper meaning of these words today. Jesus took the Road to Jerusalem resolutely: regardless of personal cost…which we know could not have been higher, for Jerusalem became the place where he will be rejected, crucified and was put to death

When we gather to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, what we are doing is remembering and celebrating that cost: Passion and death – and the Resurrection, the new life that passion and death bought for us all. ‘He made peace by the blood of the Cross’ St Paul tells us. That’s the mystery on which our Christian faith is founded

When we Christian Catholic people build a church we do so primarily in order to provide a suitable place in which to celebrate the Mass, the Holy Eucharist, which is the great Memorial that brings that pivotal Paschal moment of Jesus’ life in Jerusalem alive. It was for us that Jesus went through the passion and death that brought him to Resurrection in Jerusalem, for our sake, to show us the way to peace

For a community of men and women who profess Christian Faith therefore, a church is essential. It is our little Jerusalem, our place for the Eucharist, place of peace and of prayer, the place where we become our best selves because we come and worship… The place where we remember we are one with Jesus and with each other, where we become a holy communion.

‘As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the Road for Jerusalem’.

Heaven and Jerusalem are closely connected. Both places speak of peace. I remember years ago in France, entering an old church in the centre of a town and being struck by the words written in large letters on the door: ‘This is the house of God, this is the Gate of heaven’. These are the words exclaimed by Jacob in the Book of Genesis when he woke from the dream in which he saw a ladder linking earth to heaven.  Now I realise these are words written often at the entrance of churches.

Because this is the reality. This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven the place where we connect consciously with God, in the Eucharist and in prayer, and with others. Here we receive the food that gives us strength for the journey that is our lives…Lives that are often so full of threats and challenges,

I can’t help but think of the challenge (or is it threat?) many feel with the triumph the other day of Brexit. We live in a world of constant turmoil, of seemingly endless challenge and threat…at the big level: witness the unending catastrophe of Syria, the hunger and famine, the challenge of climate change, the tragedy of displaced millions…thousands on the move …refugees…seeking a new homeland…peace, an opportunity to live and flourish.. And similarly at the ‘smaller’ level of our own lives: sudden deaths, bad news from the doctor, break-up of relationships, loss of employment etc. Peace is so elusive…

But I can’t help thinking either of the context in which this beautiful church was opened 100 years ago…an Ireland in the grip of change, filled with uncertainty, convulsed by the recent Rising at Easter and the subsequent summary executions of its young leaders; I think of a Europe which on the 27th of August 1916 when this church was being opened and blessed with great celebration and hope for the future and all that this new church would mean for the people, Europe was in the throes of an unprecedented War, and specifically of the horrible and futile conflagration that was the Battle of the Somme: hundreds of thousands of men slaughtered hopelessly, stupidly.

The world doesn’t change. War and inhumanity thrives. The ugly face of evil wreaking destruction…the innocent the first victims of our fear and our folly.

And yet there is Jerusalem: The place built for peace, named for peace, the City of God. And there is this church of St Peter and Paul, in this little parish of Straide! Why? Because there is so much more to humankind than war and hatred. In 1916 your ancestors choose the way of peace, the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus, resolutely, when they built this sanctuary of peace in their midst. And it wasn’t easy, and it took a lot of courage and faith. And they weren’t the first. Their ancestors before them had done the same thing a thousand years and more ago when they built the Teampall Mór, that gives its ancient name to this parish, and when they supported the Franciscans first and then the Dominicans in building the Priory of the Holy Cross, Straide Abbey, from its foundation in 1240 to the death of its last friar in the middle of the 19th century. And then they built the penal church, which this Church replaced a hundred years ago.

And today, on this Sunday that is nearest the feast of Sts Peter and Paul in 2016, you celebrate the centenary of this Holy Place, dedicated as it is to the same Sts Peter and Paul.  You have the church in pristine condition…as is fitting for what is always the House of God and the Gate of heaven for us… lest we forget, in the midst of all the threat and fear of our day, lest we forget…our God who loves us and waits for us, and that we are ourselves, first and foremost, his children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, destined by his grace for the glory of heaven, and already, please God, on our way there….

Congratulations! This celebration does you proud as people and as a parish! And May God the Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul, keep you strong in faith, in hope and in love so as to live always, and no matter what comes, in peace.  Amen.

Homily at Funeral Mass of Monsignor Joe Spelman

Monsignor Joe Spelman, R.I.P.

Monsignor Joe Spelman, R.I.P.

On Saturday June 25th, Bishop Brendan was Principal Celebrant at the Funeral of Monsignor Joe Spelman, retired Parish Priest of Collooney and former Vicar General of the Diocese of Achonry.  The following is the test of the Homily preached at the Funeral Mass in the Church of The Assumption, Collooney, Co. Sligo.


No sooner had the Apostles, his closest collaborators, experienced the First Eucharist with Jesus, we are told, than ‘A dispute arose also between them about which should be reckoned the greatest’. In spite of their closeness to Jesus, the Apostles were slow to understand what he was about and what he was showing them by his words, his gestures, his life. With extraordinary patience, he gently but firmly spells it all out… he is not about degrees of importance or status. Still less is he about controlling anyone or lording it over, but rather ‘Here am I among you as one who serves’.

At the heart of being Jesus’ follower or apostle is the simple matter of willingness to serve, getting down in the dust, washing feet…

After Joe Spelman’s mother died on the 29th of August 1982, an appreciation written by a past pupil appeared in one of the local newspapers. Mary Spelman had spent 30 years as teacher of the junior classes in Coolavin school in Monasteraden. These are some of the things written about her in that tribute:

‘For those of us venturing out to school for the first time, her hand had a comforting feel; once inside her classroom door, we were safe; she taught us all we were able to learn; above all she taught us to pray (followed by a wonderful description of how she instilled such love and devotion to the Blessed sacrament in her little charges as she prepared them for their first holy communion). The writer went on to say ‘she carved a niche in our hearts’. I think her son carved a good niche too in the hearts of many people…

I thought these things about his mother Mary were worth quoting today at Fr Joe’s Mass. They speak the rock out of which this good man was hewn.

People invariably have described Fr Joe Spelman as a ‘gentleman’. In every sense: a gentleman and a gentle man. Kind mother for it, as the old expression would put it. And father too, no doubt. The other word I heard most often these last few days: ‘he was gracious’. And he was. When I asked one colleague what he’d say about him, his first words were: ‘I liked him’- ‘A decent man’.

 Joseph Spelman was an extraordinarily bright student, he became an extraordinary scholar and first class student in Mathematics and Physics. But he was learned in many other fields as well – history, for example, which he loved. (He researched and wrote, for example, the definitive account of why Ballaghaderreen play their football in Mayo). He loved his native place.

He became a superb teacher in St Nathy’s and in Maynooth College, invariably going way beyond the call of duty in serving and helping his students. He was quiet spoken and reserved, laconic and witty, discreet but welcoming, very attentive to people, and kind, always kind. These are the sort of things people have said about him these last couple of days.

One of the really good and lovely things that happens often around death, particularly when it is natural and the person is full of years, it’s as if the goodness and gift that the person was emerges more strongly than ever before. So the tears and sorrow are mixed with gratitude and fuller appreciation. We want to thank God. We become thank-full. A sense that we have been touched by grace in the one who is no longer with us in the flesh…and his passing leaves a gap…

‘A dispute arose between them about who should be reckoned the greatest’. Mrs Spelman’s son had no interest in being the greatest. But he did seek to serve. That emerged strongly too after he retired from his academic life and returned to the diocese, here to Collooney. He never regarded becoming a parish priest as opportunity to relax and put up the feet, but rather he humbly asked his colleagues for help and advice, as he sought now to be a good shepherd to his people. He was all of that. Fr Joe liked people. And he knew that to serve God meant in practice to serve people. He was particularly attentive to those who were not well or not well-off. Visiting those in hospitals or homes was a big priority, a weekly pilgrimage.

‘Here am I among you as one who serves’, Jesus said to his friends and collaborators. ‘In the end of life, we will be judged on love’ the great St John of the Cross so rightly said. The love that is service is what he’s talking about. Jesus and the Father he revealed know no other way:  the way of self-giving, of self-sacrifice, of always putting the other first, especially the least and poorest.

On November 20, 2007, I arrived into the diocese for the first time. It was the day I was announced as bishop. At 4 in the afternoon I met all the priests in Ballaghaderreen. Mgr Joe as Vicar General was the one who welcomed me to the diocese. In the course of his brief speech, he cut straight to the heart of the matter. He told me I came here and was welcomed as successor of the Apostles. That this was what I would be expected to be. At least that is what I heard. And it was what I needed to hear. Up to then it had been a somewhat euphoric and mostly emotional day, full of congratulations and good wishes, but this was a coming down to earth, the essential, the truth of the situation. He rendered me a service that was necessary and brought me into balance and the real. The man who is a true servant never seeks popularity. And it is a grace of God to work alongside a person of that integrity. For this we are thankful to God today.

It wasn’t long after that that Parkinson’s disease came to Joe. He wasn’t a man to speak of his ailment at all, apart from saying his walk wasn’t good. There was no self-pity. He retired on coming to the age, and as his disability affected him more, withdrew graciously from committees on which he served. A loss, because his interventions were wise, and his advice was invariably sound. Eventually he did his own research and chose to enter the Sacred Heart Residence in 2013. He knew he could not manage anymore without assistance. And he wanted to be close to Marie and her family, as he always had been. And it was the right decision, taken in his own time, though not without a certain struggle.

He accepted his decline without complaint and with little comment. He was a good patient. He was blessed that you his family were extraordinarily attentive to him. And he was well-cared for by the nursing home staff, who liked him very much.

Yes. Joe Spelman ‘fought the good fight to the end, finished the course God gave him, kept the faith’.

It was a grace given this man who for others was so often full of grace.

In this year of mercy, though, he would want us today to implore God to be merciful to him. He had no false notions about himself, and knew his limits and failings. That is our purpose in celebrating this holy Eucharist.

May Father Joe, by your mercy Lord, be conferred with your kingdom, and may this man of the Eucharist ‘eat and drink now at the table in your kingdom’, according to your promise.

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