Remembering An tAth Tomás O’Ceallaigh (Cloonloo) 2nd August 2013


A Thiarna Dia, a Athair an Ghrá,

Táimíd bailithe anseo leis an Leacht cuimhneacháin seo

in onóir An tAthair Tomás Ó Ceallaigh a bheannú.

Tá tú linn I gcónaí, agus ní thréigeann tú riamh muid,

fiú nuair a thréigeann muide thusa.

Bí linn anois ar an ócáid stairiúil seo do phobail Chluain Lua.


The people of Cloonloo have gathered today

for the unveiling and blessing of this fine Memorial to An tAthair Tomás Ó Ceallaigh,

son of this parish, priest of the Elphin diocese

and first Professor of Education at University College Galway.


We want to thank you Lord for An tAth Tomás’ life,

For his work as teacher and educationalist,

as promoter of our native language and culture,

as journalist & creative writer of poems, plays and musicals in Irish.

We thank you for his achievements and his vision for his country and for his own people.


May this fine memorial stand as a reminder to all,

now and in the generations to come,

of the values he espoused, the vision and hope he embodied.


We thank you for the people who organised and contributed in any way

to the raising of this memorial in this year of the Gathering.

May their efforts and dedication bear rich fruit.

May the memory of an tAth Tomás which this memorial recovers

and will keep alive,

be an inspiration to this and succeeding generations

to keep alive and thriving: the flame of faith,

the irreplaceable gift of our native tradition and culture,

and the inestimable value of education in its broadest Christian sense,  amongst the people of Cloonloo and of this country.


Agus mar sin, in ainm Íosa Chríost an Slánaitheoir,

in ainm Naomh Athracht agus Rónán agus naoimh uile an pharóiste seo,

beannaím an leacht Chuimhneacháin seo

+in ainm an Athair agus an Mhic agus an Spiorad Naoimh.      Améin.




Aifreann Na hÓcáide: Memorial Mass

Readings: Wisdom 7:7-10.15-16; Phil 4:4-9;  Gospel: Mt 18:1-5




“Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour and everything that can be thought virtuous and worthy of praise…”  (Phil 4:7) 

The recent heat wave, which lasted just about three weeks, was wonderful. It lifted our spirits, we were energised and full of life. But did you notice that already before the weather broke, there was talk of drought and rationing of water had already begun, it seems, in many communities. Dried up earth produces nothing. And how quickly it can dry!

But it’s not just the earth that needs to be watered if it is to bear fruit. Our own lives too need watering. Our roots, that part of our existence hidden in the earth from which we are sprung, needs watering too.

I’d like to think that that is precisely what this event is doing for the people of Cloonloo. All the aspects that go to make up this celebration of Fr Kelly, An tAthair Tomás Ó Ceallaigh: the unveiling and blessing of the fine Celtic Cross, the Memorial Mass, the launching of the Book ‘Cloonloo and its surroundings’, and the social afterwards…all of this is about preventing the drought of forgetfulness regarding our past. We ensure that in remembering and celebrating, we and our children are metaphorically watering out roots – so that we can withstand the pressures and the challenges at every human level that the times we are in impose.

And there are challenges in the times in which we live. Huge challenges. Challenges for us all, and challenges particularly for our children and young people.

For example, this is what Pope Francis had to say regarding the challenges of our times to the three million mostly young people who gathered with him last weekend in Rio de Janeiro.

“Look, at this moment, I think our world civilization has gone beyond its limits, it has gone beyond its limits because it has made money into such a god that we are now faced with a philosophy and a practice which exclude the two ends of life that are most full of promise for peoples. They exclude the elderly, obviously. You could easily think there is a kind of hidden euthanasia, that is, we don’t take care of the elderly; but there is also a cultural euthanasia, because we don’t allow them to speak, we don’t allow them to act. And there is the exclusion of the young. The percentage of our young people without work, without employment, is very high and we have a generation with no experience of the dignity gained through work. This civilization, in other words, has led us to exclude the two peaks that make up our future,” the Pope said to young Argentines and reporters.

We live in what can be an extremely selfish society. The focus is so much on personal and individual rights, what I am entitled to have or to get, to the exclusion too often of what I am capable of giving and contributing, my responsibilities and duties towards other people, towards creation and towards the Creator. The emphasis is on the able and the strong…what of the weakest, the least able? The Gospel today is very powerful: Jesus “called a little child to him and set him in front of them. Then he said ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’”. The words are worth pondering. They are very strong and absolute. Absolutely child-centred, you might say, – for one thing.

Is it not true to say, for example, that making acceptable abortion and euthanasia at the weakest and most defenceless ends of the human spectrum threatens and devalues all who might be classed as less able, and redefines all humans?.

This is where education comes in. Fr O Ceallaigh was primarily an educator. A big question for us today is how do we bring up our children, what values do we want to instil into them, what example do we want to give them?. Example is the most powerful educator: the example that is the dominant culture, as well as the personal example we adults each give. I’m talking of education in the biggest sense: Education that takes account of the whole person, of all aspects of our humanity and what it is to be human and part of the human project on this earth. Education that is primarily to do with home, though very much also to do with school. The schools can never be separated from the home: home and school, teacher and parent, for the sake of the child.

One thing is certain. We are not on this earth to be just consumers merely, as a society consumed by the economic, commercial and monetary factors would seem to have us believe.

Tomás Ó Ceallaigh was brought up here in Cloonloo in tougher times. The eldest of his family of eight children, like so many other older children in those days, he was taken to be reared by his grandparents in the Boyle area at the age of four, a common occurrence, no doubt dictated by the poorer circumstances in which big families were reared in those days. It’s not today or yesterday that grandparents stepped in to ease the burden on young families, and were powerful influences on their grandchildren’s education and up-bringing.

And this man’s life and the contribution we are celebrating today was determined initially by the education he received from his grandparents: his love for the faith that caused him to choose the priesthood, and his love of all thinks Irish and his dedication to the revival of our language and culture. These loves were strengthened by the schooling, the formal and informal education he received in Summerhill and especially in Maynooth College. But none of all he learned and experienced was for himself. It was for giving away, for the good of others, especially the young….as teacher, writer, and professor.

The culture that has taken hold in our land today in these early years of the twenty-first century, no more than that which dominated in Fr Tomás’ youth in the early years of the twentieth century, was forgetful and dismissive of the very things to which he dedicated his life and the great intellectual gifts God had given him. What are we dismissing today? And choosing to forget?

In the middle of the Holy Mass, need I spell it out? This is not a Year of Faith for nothing. In the wake of the so-called prosperity that was ours briefly till that house built on sand collapsed and with such grave consequences in 2008?

To believe in God and to love one another still matters. In fact it is the only thing that matters, in the short as well as in the long run.

There are roots, solid roots, of faith and of commitment to charity and community that we need to water now. Values and practices that will form us, and strengthen us and give the unquenchable hope that Jesus always was, – and is still today. We need to believe this now more than ever.

That’s what’s happening in and through these celebrations, this recovering of the legacy of Tomás Ó Ceallaigh’s story and work.

We need our faith, re-ignited; and we need an education that will not dismiss our faith and our history to the margins, and all that has to do with the fullness of who we are as human beings, as Irishmen and women, and as Catholics.

So as we honour this good man, this son of Cloonloo, who lived a brief enough life of 45 years in the early years of the 20th century, let us, like him, resolve to water the roots that we have neglected, that the prevailing culture of our times would have us forget. I speak of the roots of faith particularly. And the education we want for our young, is such that faith will not be excluded, so that they will grow to be men and women of selfless and practical idealism and vision, and possessed of a hope that will sustain no matter how hard life may be; and all this because they are solidly rooted in God, and in the self-giving that is the foundation of the entire Christian story: that alone, that selfless love, is what brings true fulfilment to men and women, in time and in eternity.