Fr Michael Joyce gathered with family and friends to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving in the Church of Our Lady Help of Christians, Swinford on June 19th – the eve of the Golden Jubilee of his Ordination to Priesthood for the Diocese of Achonry. Fr Michael’s ministry in the diocese saw him teaching for two years in St Patrick’s, Swinford and until 1992 in St Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen. Since then he has served as Parish Priest in three parishes – Curry, Swinford and Bohola. Fr Michael retired last year and now resides in Swinford. A native of the Parish of Foxford, he spoke at the Mass about the faith that was so evident in his home parish and of the many priests who were native to the parish and visited during his youth. He talked of the Nuns asking him to serve Masses for these priests during their summer visits and how much he loved doing that. He spoke too of the priests and the nuns of Foxford and how much they did for the community. Added to this, his mother’s deep and abiding faith ensured prayer was central to their home (and games of cards too!!!). All of this, Fr Michael believes, formed a piece that made the idea of priesthood very appealing to him and meaningful for him.
His love of priesthood is obvious and he spoke very movingly about his love of the Mass and his belief in God as a Loving Father who seeks never to punish but always to encourage and bring out the best in people. He said he hopes he has relayed this belief during his time in the diocese. Referring to the mysteries of the Rosary, he said he was convinced his priesthood had taken him through much of the joyful and sorrowful mysteries – where he rejoiced with people in their celebrations and hoped he had been something of a support in times of trial, sickness, uncertainty and death. The “Glorious” mysteries, he believes, await us all.
He mentioned the death of his father (aged 50) and that two days after the funeral he went to St Nathy’s as a First Year pupil. It was a difficult time but he found great support and friendship in St Nathy’s and later in Maynooth College that has remained a constant in his life. He has a keen interest in sport and believes this has been a great help to him through is life.
With a little emotion welling in his throat, he brought his words to a close with the simple and profound wish that God would “bless you all”. The standing ovation that followed, bore witness to the regard people have for Fr Michael.
Speaking at the end of Mass Parish Priest, Fr Dermot Meehan, spoke of meeting Fr Michael when he went to St Nathy’s over forty years ago as a first year. (Hard to believe Michael was less than ten years ordained then). Fr Dermot said that Michael’s care for students and his great ability as a teacher had a strong part to play in his own decision to become a priest. Thanking him, and other former teachers from St Nathy’s (also present at the Mass), Fr Michael was wished much joy and hearty congratulations.
Bishop Brendan spoke too of Michael’s kindness. He commented on Michael’s use of the words “lovely” and “love” and believes these are rooted in his upbringing and experience of God. It is clear Michael believes in God’s love and has sought to share it with others through the years of his ministry.
God Bless you Fr Michael. Ad multos annos.