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Bishop Denis’ Homily from the Mercy Day and Opening Year Mass at St Mary’s College, Naas

Opening Year Mass – St. Mary’s College, Naas                      25.09.20

Our Lady & St. David’s Church @ 12noon
Mercy Day Mass


It’s a joy to be with you this Friday at noon to honour Mercy Day and to virtually connect with every class in St. Mary’s College next door. This beautiful church has been and remains an intricate part of your lives. It is here many of you received your First Holy Communion and were confirmed. It is here you would in normal times gather, all 1,070 of you for your Opening Year Mercy Mass, but these are not normal times.

The parish has used webcam to huge effect during the recent ‘lockdowns’. You are not locked down, none of us are but we are restricted and confined because of a virus that is so miniscule, it’s airbourne and therefore we wear masks, keep our distance, sanitise and more which I’ll return to later.

I want to greet your Principal Mark Dowling and his entire staff. I want to also remember your former Principals Rita McCabe and Marie O’Neill and of course the Mercy Sisters who founded your school back in 1936. To Sr. Brigid, Sr. Ann and to Sr. Mary joining us from Craddockstown a special céad míle failte!

We are told by scientists and epidemiologists that the virus is miniscule; in three months time we will gather around a miniscule baby whose birth changed the world. Perhaps we still need to make that change, let’s call to mind our sins …


St. Paul writing to the Colossians reminds us to “put on love[1]. It’s a simple and profound message. The tweet issued from your Twitter Account yesterday morning on Mercy Day quoted from Venerable Catherine McAuley: “the proof of love is deed”. I imagine it was posted to remind you that our actions speak loudest when they are rooted in love.

I am so delighted to be in a position to join you this year for your Opening Year Mass. Other years the date clashed with competing diary commitments. But not this year, St. Mary’s College took precedence.

Before visiting a school or celebrating an event, I always check into the schools website. It’s not very different to visiting a church, I always check the church notice board. Are notices up to date, is last years pilgrimage still being advertised, is there order and purpose to what I see? The website is no different. Yours was so up to date, it had Mass starting today at 12.15 and concluding at ten past one, so Liam, no pressure! No room for a long homily! I better keep moving!

The website featured the headgirl Aisling Lenihan and deputy Katie MacNamara. You had a great welcome for the 180 first years who I see began their life here in St. Mary’s College on August 28th. Hands up all the First Years! I see the Transition Year are already beavering away at their Young Enterprise project. And huge information about sport, music, drama and all the other asides that make education so worthwhile.

We may have to wear our masks, but beneath those masks are the happiest students who have a great affection for their school, well most of the time, love their friends, all the time and a deep appreciation for their teachers, for the entire staff. I always think those in the front office are key to a school, they are the welcome that awaits every visitor. And while I can’t see all of you today, I know you are there and please realise your role is special.

The gospel I chose is the one of the day from St. Luke. It reminds us of the moment Jesus asked his disciples: “But you, he said, Who do you say I am?[2]. Like St. Paul earlier another simple and profound teaching. Who is Jesus for us. I hope when you look at your crest, the crest you wear, the crest that is on everything to do with St. Mary’s College, Naas, you will notice the Mercy Cross. Unique to the Sisters, unique to Catherine McAuley. It is a silver and black cross and without the figure of Jesus. Catherine McAuley who designed the original Mercy cross, said that the Mercy Congregation was founded on Calvary and that each one of us are the invisible ones on the cross. I hope when you answer that question “who is Jesus for you?”. I hope you will answer the person in front of you, behind you, beside you. And maybe an odd time, look down at your crest and ask yourself how am I Jesus to others?

Your school has a long history of involvement in diocesan programmes such as Meitheal and Pope John Paul II Awards. I look forward to virtually presenting those awards next Tuesday to Rachel, Amy, Aisling, Fuliang, Katie, Leah, Oniosa, Rachel, Katie, Jane, Kerry and Niamh, representing three parishes Caragh, Kill and Naas. I compliment the incoming Meitheal team of Hannah, Sive, Ellen, Robyn, Ellen, Caitlin, Tara, Emma, Roisin, Niamh, Lucy and Aoife.

All you young people are asked in these present pandemic days to really step up to the plate. A huge responsibility and indeed sacrifice has been placed on your shoulders. Wearing the masks is the simple bit. Sanitising – well girls love bathrooms, that’s surely not a problem. Keeping our distance is very tough, cutting down our social interactions is very hard, minimising having friends in for sleepovers – this isn’t easy but we love our vulnerable too much. Our gran who is in a Nursing Home, our papa who is on dialysis, our little nephew who had an organ transplant and has been struggling since.

And this miniscule virus knows no boundaries, is no respector of age or address or health condition. We must do our bit, play our part. Please no congregating, no social gatherings this weekend, the coming week. The Kildare virus reproductive figure is dangerously high. Too many have too much to lose from a third County lockdown. You owe it to one another. Back to that Venerable Catherine McAuley quote on your school Twitter feed: “the proof of love is deed”. Don’t let yourself or each other down, remember the Cross on your school crest!

[1] Col 3: 14

[2] Lk. 9:20