We gather this day to pay a faith-filled farewell to Bishop Jim Moriarty. We gather to support Bishop Jim’s family, his brothers Michael and Denis, his sister Ann; his sisters-in-law Mary, Anne and Fiona; his nieces and nephews, and all who worked alongside Jim in his sixty-one years of ministry generously shared between the Archdiocese of Dublin and Kildare & Leighlin. We gather to surround Bishop Jim with our love and to accompany him in prayer handing him gently back to God whose mercy and love know no bounds.
I welcome all of you who gather with us this day in person here in the Cathedral or through the webcam. I thank His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Archbishop Dermot, Archbishop Kieran, Archbishop Emeritus Diarmuid and many of his brother Bishops for their presence here today. I thank Archbishop Eamon Martin who paid his respects last evening. Your prayers, presence and support are deeply appreciated by all of us. Apologies from a number of Bishops who cannot be with us this morning, especially Bishop Paul Dempsey who worked very closely with Bishop Jim around World Youth Days and Vocations. Apologies also from Mgr. John Byrne, our Vicar General who like many has fallen victim to Covid. I welcome the many priests and religious from Kildare & Leighlin, from Dublin and from elsewhere who are here today and those who joined us on Monday evening and throughout yesterday. I welcome the many lay people with whom Bishop Jim collaborated and worked alongside from his first appointment as Priest Teacher in the Vocational School, Killester to Saint Anthony’s, Clontarf where he so happily lived out a very fulfilled retirement until sickness necessitated him moving to Cherryfield Lodge Nursing Home.
It is great that Bishop Jim has come home and many commented to me in recent days how good it is that his funeral is here in the Cathedral in Carlow from where he shepherded this diocese for eight years and where he will later be laid to rest alongside those who shepherded here before him. We all have our memories of Jim, that genial smile, that reassuring hand on the shoulder, that ease of connection he made with all ages. As we gather our memories, we do so in the context of celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Christ, as we call to mind our sins …
Luke’s text today comes from the gospel of last Saturday. I had just celebrated Mass when I got the phone call to tell me that Bishop Jim had slipped into eternity. The last little while his journey of illness wasn’t so easy. In the end it was a happy release that not one of us could begrudge. In the words of Saint Paul he had “fought the good fight … finished the race”.
In the gospel text we are presented with the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The importance of parables can hardly be over-estimated. Scripture scholars suggest they are the sayings which we can confidently ascribe to the historical Jesus. They are some of the best known pieces of sacred scripture – last Sunday’s Prodigal Son comes to mind. Today, we are confronted by two men who pray very differently – a Pharisee and a tax collector. As we read parables we know how they’ll end. Jesus always commends humility, honesty and hard work. I suggest Bishop Jim embodied these virtues and more throughout his life.
Over the last few days I spoke to many people about their memories of Bishop Jim. The same words, the same phrases, the same nuances were repeated over and over again. A warm personality who could engage comfortably with people of all backgrounds and professions. He was articulate and had that natural affinity with young people. He had that ability to put people at ease, Jim didn’t stand on ceremony and was very encouraging to priests and people. He was a man without self-importance or pomposity of any kind and anything resembling clericalism was wholly alien to him. Many mentioned his pastoral care and outreach, encouraging all to live out their baptismal calling. He loved all sport but particularly his golf and by all accounts was very competitive on the greens!
It was not surprising in the Bishops’ Conference that Bishop Jim chaired the Commission for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development. Here in the diocese he implemented every aspect of what that Commission represented. He established Faith Development Services working out of the Cathedral Parish Centre where lay people are employed to resource and support the diocese. He encouraged good liturgy building on the legacy of Mgr. Sean Swayne and others. He empowered renewal at every aspect of diocesan life including the introduction of the Permanent Diaconate.
Communicating the good news was always critical to Bishop Jim. The Christmas ‘Reach-Out’ initiative which was specifically targeted to those who didn’t engage, who didn’t practise was important to him. His personal Christmas greeting cards, his pioneering a presence at the Ploughing Championships in 2006 and his establishing a dedicated Diocesan Communications Committee. Jim understood as all of must that good communication has to be at the heart of what we do.
Over recent days many priests have commented on Bishop Jim’s care and attentiveness to them. This was attested to by the large number of priests from Dublin who joined us on Monday evening to welcome Jim’s remains into the Cathedral and are here today. Here in Kildare & Leighlin I know men who remain indebted to his kindness to them at different moments in their lives. And some remained in regular contact with him long after he had moved to Clontarf. I pay tribute to Fr Bill for his unswerving attentiveness over all his years here and since.
From the tributes posted on rip.ie and indeed conversations with UCD alumni it is obvious that Jim’s time there as chaplain is very well remembered. I think the appointment of chaplains at third level remains a critical point of encounter and engagement. Jim’s experience of chaplaincy gave him a great insight and rapport with young people and their culture. He was an integral part of all World Youth Days, travelling with the young people always with his pair of runners! He saw the value that Meitheal offered the diocese and the potential of the Pope John Paul II Awards which would be introduced a little later by Mgr. Brendan. He loved celebrating Confirmation where he always presented messages laced with lyrics from Black Eyed Peas or quotes from Harry Potter! On my visits to schools – Primary and Post Primary – I see ample evidence of Jim’s presence before me supporting Catholic education.
And despite everything there was on occasion a slight shyness in Jim out of which humility shone. He was at times happier to be standing with the tax collector in the temple “some distance away”, not wanting to draw attention to himself. Someone said to me the other night at the back of the Cathedral “Jim was a gentle courteous shy man who was never seen without the Irish Times tucked under his arm as he walked the corridors of UCD”. Indeed he continued this tradition in Carlow with his daily walk from Lamberts. In this shyness he made people more at ease. And in this shyness he stood shoulder to shoulder with the humble tax collector in the temple.
There is no doubting that Bishop Jim lived through generations of change in the Church since his ordination in 1961. His was a humble approach like the tax collector in Luke’s parable, one always willing to serve, one always willing to learn. In 2010 when Bishop Jim resigned in response to the Murphy report – he did so in response to his own reflection that he himself did not criticise, when he should have, a culture that needed to be challenged. In doing so Bishop Jim did not merely learn but also in a real way taught us that we must always do the correct thing. More than ever in that moment he was showing his characteristic humble leadership.
Luke’s gospel signs off with that famous Lucan line: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles will be exalted”. The Eucharist is the most appropriate place for us to remember the dead. We remember them no longer as dead but alive in Christ, no longer as passed but as present to us in the Christian assembly. As Jim reposed here in the heart of the Cathedral sanctuary throughout yesterday with several young people and others holding vigil, I couldn’t help but think this is another ‘Reach Out’ moment, an opportunity and invitation to allow people to encounter Christ and embrace faith.
In words attributed to Henry van Dyke which Bishop Jim himself has used:
“Time is too slow for those who wait.
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice,
But for those who love time is eternity”.
Bishop Jim fully deserves his rest now in eternity. The episcopal ring he wore was in fact his mother’s wedding ring which was melted and remoulded. And now he will be reunited with his parents Michael and Catherine and brother Aidan in eternity. May Bishop Jim and all we have loved in life but lose to death rest in peace. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
 Van Dyke, Henry, US Author inscribed on a sundial.