We gather on the Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, but this is not just another ordinary Sunday here in St. Mary’s Church, Clonaghadoo! We gather two years, five months and eleven days later than originally planned to mark the Golden Jubilee of this wonderful church, and more importantly the faith community that is Clonaghadoo.
You all have before you the commemorative booklet for the celebration that was planned on St. Patrick’s Day 2020; we are intentionally using the same readings, the same prayers, the same hymns that were planned that day. So don’t start thinking there is a misprint in the booklet, it is exactly what it says on the tin!
This is not my first visit to Clonaghadoo. I vividly recall my visit here for the Feast of Corpus Christi in 2017 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the school next door. I know the great work Fr. Noel Dunphy does in these parts and how well he is regarded in the school and surrounding area.
Fr. Mícheál thank you for the invitation to be here, I am delighted to be here. I know you are the Parish Priest of Mountmellick and indeed the Vicar Forane of the wider 18 parishes, but Fr. Noel is the man for Clonaghadoo!
I am delighted that Fr. Tony McEvoy, Salesian, ordained here in 1972 joins us, as does Fr. Jim O’Connell, a native son of the parish, who is the Administrator of Ballon/Rathoe parish and greatly loved there.
As we gather to celebrate a jubilee, we do so in the awareness that on occasions we are anything but jubilant, anything but golden, we have good reason to pray for forgiveness for our sins …
My father had this thing about being late for Mass! We grew up with the irritating sound of the car horn beckoning us to pile into the car for Mass. We were dutifully compliant. If only parents had it as simple in the Ireland of 2022!
I am in the process of writing a Pastoral Letter to all Parishes to be issued in early September, to reflect on our experience of Sunday. Our celebration of Masses needs to looked at in their totality. And it’s not just a casualty of the global pandemic, I accept Covid has been a huge irritant in respect of public worship and the regulating instruments that governed such worship. We celebrate often too many Masses and have our priests stretched to cover every scheduled celebration. This can’t be left to continue. If a priest gets sick, where are we left? These are other challenges will be named in the pastoral, leading to further reflection in parishes, in proposed clusters of parishes and in the wider pastoral areas.
My last visit to celebrate Mass here in Clonaghadoo was in 2017, it was then the Feast of the Body & Blood of Christ. While it was honouring the school, then 50 years old, it was also honouring the little ones who were to receive their First Holy Communion in 2017, reminding us all that the Body of Christ nourishes us and feeds us. Today we celebrate 50, in fact 52 years of Eucharistic nourishment and Eucharistic amazement coming from this church out into the wider community.
It is great that the four who received their First Holy Communion on St. Patrick’s Day, 1970 are here this day! Kindly stand! It is great that some of the five couples who were the first to marry in this church in 1970 are also with us today. I invite you to stand. It is great that Tony McEvoy, a son of the parish, ordained a Salesian priest here in 1972, is also present. Wishing Tony every blessing on his own golden jubilee of ordination next December. Sacraments are the living breath of the local community. Sacraments bring life to the bricks and mortar, the timber and marble, the fabric and floor tiles of a church. A church is simply another postcode on google maps – it is the sacraments that make the church!
When invited to jubilees of churches, I often wonder what were the hopes of the people at the time of building as they stood on a building site, maybe with only foundations dug? What did they intend to build? We are very lucky in that so many connected to those days are here with us today. I welcome the builder Charlie Breen. I acknowledge the many pieces of art designed by people with deep roots in these parts. I think of the late Shane Dunne who designed the stained glass representation of the Risen Christ and the door of the tabernacle. I think of a former colleague of mine from Coláiste Mhuire, Mullingar, Niall O’Brien, who carved the baptismal font and Paschal Candle holder. I think of the late Charlie Dunne who made the wooden Cross used on Good Friday. And the new Nativity Crib made by Benny Dunne. The very distinct bog oak Crosses supporting the Holy Water fonts were the work of Bryan Gorman, the bog oak harvested from Coolagh bog in 2007. And so much more done by locals that make this church a living church, a vibrant community, conscious of its past but living in the present and anticipating the future.
Matthews gospel speaks of the seed in the field. It’s an image that resonates with many in today’s congregation. In a few days time we will begin the Season of Creation. Pope Francis meeting with religious leaders reflecting on the environment last October reminded us “we have inherited a beautiful garden; we must not leave a desert to our children”. I would extend that comment not only to the fields outside, but to this church and what it represents.
Fr. Mícheál kindly sent me the 25th Anniversary booklet. Fr. Tony I note you were the homilist then and our own Liam Lawton preformed his Molaise Mass. So much used that day, like today were connected to the past, to earlier churches before this Boyd Barrett design. There was a line in the briefing for the 25th: “What is our Parish Vision?”. It is not the Pope, Bishop and priests but all of us as Church, building up that Church. It is obvious that the local community are engaged in every aspect of today, as they were for the 25th in 1995. But what about 2045 or dare I even ask 2070? Where is the seed falling? Who will carry the flame of Clonaghadoo and other communities like this wonderful one close to where Laois, Offaly and Kildare meet? I encourage you all to engage with the deeper reflective questions my Pastoral Letter next month will raise so that the seed we plant this time will bear abundant fruit in future generations.