This week Fr John Hayden, St. Lazarians house, Bagenalstown, celebrates his platinum jubilee, a rare and blessed occasion, the Seventieth Anniversary of his ordination

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 26 June 2008

This week Fr John Hayden, St. Lazarians house, Bagenalstown, celebrates his platinum jubilee, a rare and blessed occasion, the Seventieth Anniversary of his ordination. Fr Hayden is the oldest priest in the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin and perhaps the most loved. On Friday the Thirteenth of June a celebration led by Bishop Jim Moriarty, happened in Myshall church, celebrating a life rich in service and generosity. There was a palpable sense of affection and deep love by the people of Myshall for there much loved Pastor. Throughout his long ministry this humble and gentle priest served the needs and concerns of young and old, healthy and sick, joyous and sad occasions all in the context of his ministry, grounded in a deep love and desire to serve the Risen Lord.

In his seventy years of priesthood, life has changed dramatically, technology, communications and transport coupled with a vastly more affluent and complex culture has in many ways changed the face of the Ireland that was familiar to him in his younger days. The Church has also dramatically changed over the past seventy years, one of this mans great strengths is his ability to adapt to change. Listening to his experience of ministry is both a privilege and source of inspiration. It’s interesting, that he regards our present reality, as a very hopeful time for our church, a time, when all of us are called to share our faith in a more compassionate and humble Church.

I take particular interest in Fr John since he holds the honor of being the oldest priest in the Diocese, I still hold the badge of being the youngest. When I dream about life in the future as a priest I consider the enormous task as Church we all have in terms of communicating Gods love in our communities, families, schools and workplaces. There is a huge hunger for Gods love in our society at this time. So many in our midst carry heavy burdens, crosses that Christ wants to bring his grace and healing.

Christ calls all of us like Fr John, to be instruments of his love and compassion in our day to day lives. There are many in all our community like this man of faith and service who are Christ like, parents who give selflessly to the needs of their children, good neighbors who visit and engage with each other, volunteers in sports and social activities, the list may be endless. Where generosity and openness live so too Gods grace can do marvelous deeds. God is with us at every step of life’s journey especially when life can be difficult and it is the people close to us in our lives we turn too for love, support, and encouragement. God resides in the depth of our hearts and for this reason God lavishes his love upon us. The Church is alive when we respond well to the needs of others. We are the human face of the Church and we all are invited to grow and realise the possibilities that God has planted in all our hearts. For Seventy Years in his very gentle and humble way Fr John has been the face of Christ to so many, may all of us likewise respond with love and generosity to the needs of others.