Fr Paul Surlis Closing Comments
The post- Vatican 11 generation of children learned a new Act of Contrition, simpler and more child friendly that that which we who are older learned. It is the one children still learn, and that many have continued to say in the sacrament of penance into adulthood. It concludes with the deceptively simple petition ‘Help me to live like Jesus, and not to sin again’.
Paul Surlis spent his priestly life doing and teaching theology. In other words, helping people to come to know Jesus and to live like him in the complex global village in which we find ourselves today.
1967 was the year I began to study theology in Maynooth. Paul Surlis arrived that same year to teach us Moral Theology. How we might live like Jesus. He had a reputation for brilliance in his field, and he was brilliant. My memory is of an intense and serious teacher, who expected the same standards of hard work and commitment to study that he clearly demanded of himself. He didn’t get it always from some of us!
I never met him again till four years ago in 2010 – his last visit to Ireland. What emerged in the animated conversation I had with him then, was his passion for his native place Monasteraden, his respect and love for Ireland – for the roots, the history, the language and tradition from which he had sprung, culturally and faith-wise.
In an email from him on 11 October 2012, Paul requested what he called ‘a favor’: that his cremains be interred ‘inconspicuously’ in the church grounds at Monasteraden. He described precisely the spot where the cremains (the first time I ever heard the word) will today be laid to rest. At the end of the mail he wrote ‘I have always loved that church and its people’.
And so we are gathered here today. Fulfilling his dearest wish: that his remains rest in what for him was and is the most significant and blessed place. Under the shade of the church he loved, and where he first learned to worship God amongst the faithful of this community.
On behalf of the parish and the diocese to which he always belonged even if he ministered far away from here , tá mé sásta thú a fháiltiú abhaile inniu, Paul. Agus más sa chré seo atá do luaithreach ag faire an aiséirí, is anseo freisin is láidre a bhéas do spiorad ag foluain i gceartlár pobal bheannaithe Naomh Réadain.
On my own behalf, and on behalf of Bishop Tom Flynn who is indisposed, and on behalf of the Diocese of Achonry, I want to offer my deepest sympathy to Paul’s family, to his sisters Carmel and Sr Phyllis, to Aidan and his family to whom he was so close and who have brought the cremains home, and to Tommy Joe who is in our prayers today too. And to the many nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, relatives and friends. Sólás Athair na Trócaire go mbraithfidh sibh ar fad in bhúr mbris.
Agus i solas ghlé na bhFaitheas go maire Paul anois i gcomhluadar Íosa Chríost, to whom and to whose Mission Paul gave his life.