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Bishop Denis’ Homily at Mass celebrated for 40th Anniversary of Gaelscoil, Carlow and presentation of Benemerenti Award to Bríde de Róiste

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year A:                                               06.05.23

6.15pm Mass – Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow

Gaelscoil 40th Anniversary (1982-2022)

40th Anniversary of the Irish Mass here in the Cathedral (1983-2023)


We often hear the phrase “our loss is their gain”. It is sometimes remarked as priests take up new appointments or as valued soccer players sign up for a different team. It’s probably as good a lens as any to understand this evening’s gospel text from St. John. Jesus assures his disciples that his going to the Father is more of a gain than a loss for them. It’s a remote preparation for the import of Ascension and the joy of Pentecost which we will celebrate in the coming weeks. Jesus was preparing those closest to him and all of us for his parting.

John’s gospel takes up the moment after what is known as Jesus’ ‘farewell discourses’. The disciples don’t want to lose Jesus again. There is a palpable sadness and heaviness in the air. Jesus reassures them telling them not to be troubled, to trust in God and in him. He reminds them there are an abundance of rooms in his Father’s house.

A short few weeks ago Fr. Michael Drennan S.J. died. He was a wonderful spiritual director, a great interpreter of God’s Word. He spoke with us as a body of priests and deacons several times during the pandemic on finding God in the wilderness. I imagine he would relish in the richness of this evening’s scripture. I remember him once telling me Christ did not accommodate people, he met them where they were, but didn’t leave them where they were. And so, to this evenings gospel and to the new Testament scripture that precedes it.

Jesus is preparing his disciples and all of us for the coming of the Spirit. The words are quite mystical in their description of the union of Jesus with the Father and the Spirit, and our invitation to be part of that union. Both Thomas and Philip speak. Both have history and Jesus knew that but lets them speak and then takes them the next step. I love that line in response to Thomas “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me”[1]. He doesn’t say I was or I will be, but I am! Tense is so important in any language, Irish, English, German. This is the same Jesus who earlier in St. John reminded us “I am the bread of life”[2]. Jesus isn’t just the way; He is the only way! Jesus hears Thomas question, understands him, but moves him to a new place as the late Mike Drennan reminded me. And then Philip wants some extraordinary manifestation, a sun dancing, a statue weeping, a miracle unfolding? Once again as Mike Drennan would remind us Jesus doesn’t just meet Philip where he was, he brings him to a new understanding. Philip and all of us are reminded, we see God through Jesus and through one another.  

It’s my privilege this Saturday vigil evening on behalf of the Kildare & Leighlin Diocesan family, chun onóir a bhronnadh (to bestow an honour) on behalf of Pope Francis on Bríde de Róiste – the Benemerenti – which means tuillte go maith (well deserving). On an evening when we mark the 40th Anniversary of the Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc we also honour daichead bliain ag ceilúiradh an Aifreann as gaeilge san Eaglais seo i gCeatharlach (forty years of the Mass celebrated in the Irish language here in Carlow Cathedral).

The powerhouse behind such an initiative was Bríde de Róiste. Bríde, you are devoted to do chreideamh, do pharóiste agus pobal Ceatharlach ar fad (your faith, to your parish and to the wider Carlow community), as evidenced recently in the highly successful Pan Celtic International Festival. And I know from your car registration that you are an ardent Clare woman who in many senses has never left the banner county! The four C’s in your life are Ceatharlach, this Cathedral, the Church and of course County Clare!

Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc owes its origins to you with a couple of other stalwarts, daichead bliain ó shin (forty years ago). The first letter of Saint Peter speaks of “the Lord is the living stone”[3]. Is tusa an cloch bheo (You are the living stone) of Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc. An chéad príomh oide, ag eirí as an bpost i 2007 (You became the first Principal, retiring in 2007). The school is mar ba mhian leat (as you wished) very much under my patronage and that of my predecessors and successors. I know from the outset how important for you was the emphasis placed on the sacramental preparation of the children. A school that began with twelve pupils has over five hundred today. A huge testament to Bríde’s legacy.   

As I compliment you, molaim Ruth agus a foireann i Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc (I also congratulate Ruth and her team in Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc). While I couldn’t join you for last evenings Reunion Celebration, I trust and pray it was a great moment for friends to meet up once more and celebrate the achievements etched in the lives of so many people from Carlow and surrounding parishes. People who desired a Gaelscoil, supported it and have watched it flourish. It is critical that we support our Catholic schools who have a rich tradition of diversity and inclusivity, while still offering to those who choose a deeper understand of Jesus as “an tslí, an fhírinne agus an beatha”[4]  (the Way, the Truth and the Life).

[1] Jn.14:6

[2] Jn.6:35

[3] 1Pt.2:4

[4] Jn.14:6