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Bishop Denis’ Homily at Mass marking the retirement of Ann McQuillan, Principal St Jospehs NS, Kilcock.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A:                                                              21.01.23

St. Coca’s Church, Kilcock @ 6pm


It’s a joy to gather in St. Coca’s Church, Kilcock this evening to honour Ann McQuillan. I welcome warmly Ann and her family, her colleagues and her friends. I have very fond memories of the great celebration we enjoyed at the official opening and blessing of St. Joseph’s School last October.

Schools are very special places and Kilcock parish is blessed to have many great schools: Scoil Coca Naofa, Scoil Ui Riada, Tiermohan, Newtown, St. Joseph’s and of course Scoil Dara. I honour all our schools throughout Kildare & Leighlin diocese as we begin Catholic Schools Week this coming week.

A few years back Pope Francis in an apostolic letter Aperuit illis designated this Sunday, the third in Ordinary Time as ‘Sunday of the Word of God’. The themes of  ‘Sunday of the Word of God’ and ‘Catholic Schools Week’ are well in tune with one another. The focus of Catholic Schools Week this year is ‘Walking Together in Faith and Love’. Ann you have been walking in faith and love with the staff and pupils of St. Joseph’s for 23 years / 274 months / 8,332 days in St. Josephs!

Of course there is really nothing new about ‘Sunday of the Word of God’ because the Word of God is proclaimed at every Sunday Eucharist, at every Sunday Mass.

Equally there is nothing new about Catholic Schools Week, because every week is a celebration of the diversity, inclusivity and welcome that is evident in all our schools who see the person of Christ in those enrolled or teaching in our schools.

As always, as we prepare to celebrate these sacred mysteries, as we prepare to listen to His word and gather around His table, we call to mind our sins and pray for His love and mercy …


A few years ago, I commissioned a Chilean iconographer to write an icon for me to mark the third Mystery of Light ‘The Proclamation of His Kingdom’. Proclamation is to preach. It is essentially the proclamation of His Word, how we speak, how we proclaim, how we read, how we preach.

Lucho Alvarez, the Chilean iconographer, used pigments and colours alongside the different elements of nature to tell us something very important was happening. The entire composition of this icon, like many icons is a circle and within that circle Jesus stands, humble and meek, addressing the people. “The word became flesh and made His dwelling among us[1].

And in the middle of the attentive crowd is Mary, our Mother, always in the middle, always ready to intercede, to help. And the child, perched on the tree, oblivious to the message Christ preached, but there, perhaps closer than any to His Kingdom … “unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven[2]. The child might not have heard a word, but that child will be first in the kingdom.

That’s why children and schools are so important. For people of Christian faith, that journey begins and ends with God. Each moment on that journey is a chance to come and love God, who has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Schools are all about children. And that is why the welcome we were all given last October 7th was just like any normal day in St. Joseph’s. It wasn’t a show, it’s the reality, a reality that is multiplied in every one of our schools. Places where children are nudged along, to get the best possible chance in life.

Catholic Schools Week as a concept, celebrates the unique contribution our schools make to the lives of our pupils, our parish community and our Church. The theme of “walking together” comes from the synodal journey that Pope Francis invites us to take and on that journey every voice matters, every voice counts. Ann as someone immersed in everything to do with St. Joseph’s for 23 years, this place, this parish, these families, this community is so important to you. You know how much words matter and you mentioned that very point in your address in the school hall last October. Words are important. And this evening, the word ‘thanks’ is critically important to say.  

We all realise we are surrounded by words. Our lives are consumed by screens, it used to be television screens, now it’s a smart phone or tablet device. In company we are finding it harder to engage and much easier to disengage, to disconnect. Just swipe the phone, scroll down the latest Instagram or twitter feed; open the most recent WhatsApp message. The phone can wait, but unfortunately we can’t!

President Michael D. Higgins in his acceptance speech back in 2018 as he was re-elected to serve a second term of office: “Words matter. Words can hurt. Words can heal. Words can empower. Words can divide[3]. Words matter, none more so than God’s Word.

Matthews’s gospel introduces us to the Capernaum of Jesus’ day. His first words were: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand[4]. Followed closely with his particular appeal: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men[5]. And that kind of following isn’t just a follow on Twitter, it’s a following that makes a huge difference in your life and impacts enormously the lives of others. Through their response, they set out on a path of discipleship leaving all behind them. That was their response to the words of Jesus.

This particular Sunday invites us to reflect on how we respond to God’s word? Jesus’ words and deeds transmitted by his disciples became in turn the Sacred Scripture we read and hear every Sunday. In an era of impeachment over something allegedly said; in a time where the attractive sound bite trumps substance; in a generation where the attraction of leaving everything and following Jesus seems very remote – God’s Word, prepared well, proclaimed well, preached well hugely helps to lead people from darkness and the “land of deep shadow[6] into the light.

Ann, I wish you every blessing in your retirement. Jimmy & Jim, I commend you both for your lifetime dedication to this church and parish. Fr. George, Fr. Adriano, Liz in the sacristy and all of you, I thank you and encourage you to do a few things this week:

  1. Open a bible, open God’s Word and find a verse that will speak to you this week. Google a verse on your phone if you don’t have a bible to hand.
  2. Support your local schools, get involved in the Catholic School Weeks programme. I know many will arrange something around ‘Grandparents Day’, just don’t let this week pass.   
  3. When it comes to words, say ‘thanks more often – thanks to Ann McQuillan, Jimmy Reid, Jim Leonard and all who make our lives better.

I notice Ann in a number of the photographs around the school opening and blessing and other moments in the school life, you always had in your hand your mobile and maybe a red clipboard, leave them both aside now and enjoy the fresh air of the west and the company of family and friends!

[1] Jn. 1:14

[2] Mt. 18:3

[3] President Michael D. Higgins, Acceptance Address, 27 October 2018

[4] Mt. 4:17

[5] Mt. 4:19

[6] Is. 9:2