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Homily of Bishop Denis at the re-dedication Mass in The Church of the Assumption, The Heath

Trinity Sunday 07.06.2020, 12noon Church of the Assumption, The Heath Rededication Mass

Music: June & Paula Hennessy, Members of the Heath Choir.


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you all[1].

The final words from this morning’s second reading and they are familiar to all of us, as they shape the introductory rite in every celebration of Mass.

It is Trinity Sunday and I am delighted to be here today to rededicate this Church in the Heath to Our Lady of the Assumption after a thorough renovation, renewal and redecoration both inside and outside in recent months. Our ceremony takes place within the restrictive context of the coronavirus pandemic. Our ceremony is a bold statement that the church as a community of faith will still be more relevant than ever long after this pandemic has passed.

I warmly welcome our special guests who join us today. The building contractor Denis & Paula Phelan of Rosboro Builders. The Design and Project Management Aidan O’Connell with his wife Mary from Aidan O’Connell & Associates.

Our very limited congregation include two couples whose sacramental lives are embedded ion this Church: Mark & Una Delaney, who were married here on this day in 1979, 41 years ago and Paddy and Mary Lalor who were married here on this day in 1960, 59 years ago. As always I thank Mgr. John for steering every aspect of this project, bringing such energy and enthusiasm to all he does and inviting me to join you this day.

Like Moses in that Exodus Reading, we stand on holy ground, having just blessed ourselves, we pray in silence in the knowledge that our Lord is “a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness[2] as I rededicate this Church for sacred use …


Since the middle of March, we have learned to live with a new language, a new vocabulary – words like ‘lockdown’, ‘social distancing’ and ‘quarantine’; phrases like ‘covid-19’, ‘pandemic’ and ‘epidemiology’ have become commonplace. In a matter of three months we are all now experts at understanding the ‘R’ rate, the reproductive rate of the virulent virus.

A more important ‘R’ rate is how we relate with one another, those around us, our creator God and ourselves. The Trinity celebrates relationships, Father, Son and Spirit. The ‘Sign of the Cross’ we make several times everyday reminds us how much God actually loves us! Pope Francis suggests that today’s feast calls us to spread God’s love throughout the world. In these Covid-19 Pandemic days we are witnessing an abundance of God’s love through our frontline workers, particularly those working in the health sector. I especially think of those in Portlaoise Hospital, in local Nursing Homes and Care Centres.

On this first Sunday in June, I should now be well on the road to Knock Shrine in County Mayo, probably stuck behind buses travelling from many parishes across Kildare & Leighlin. I’m also aware it is the Sunday of Cemetery Devotions in Portlaoise. Of course, like so much of our normal life, most if not everything has been put on hold, because of the coronavirus pandemic. While restrictions ease further tomorrow, as we move into an accelerated Phase 2 Plus, we will still be journeying with the pandemic in our restricted lives for a long time to come.

People tell me how much they miss their connection with the Mass. There is a hunger for presence and it’s not just Eucharist, it’s the community, it’s the gathering, it’s the coming together. And we must do this cautiously and safely conscious of the huge sacrifices many have made along this Covid-19 journey. No greater sacrifice than not being with a loved one in their final hours. It would be desperate to undo those sacrifices by our haste and rush.

What we are about here in the Heath this Sunday afternoon is so important. It is a statement of confidence in the local community who love their Church , their faith and their parish. This mammoth project has seem a thorough renovation, renewal and decoration, both inside and outside. I came last Thursday evening on a scouting mission, just to see the project for myself, before todays ceremony. I was blown away by what I saw. Mgr. John tells me the project included rectifying dampness; the creation of a new baptistry using the original font and creating a shrine to Our Lady with an image of the Madonna and child by Carlow artist Ann Murphy. The pews are new as is the mechanical and electrical systems, including the requisite state of the art sound system. I always feel a church needs to have three esentials: 1. good lights, 2. good sound and 3. good heat – most of the rest can be endured! This programme of work ticks all the boxes!! I noticed the new Air to Water heating system on my visit the other evening.

At a time when our 117 churches across Kildare & Leighlin are making remote preparations for gradual and gentle reopening for Masses at the end of the month; the Heath and its rededication in a pandemic time is a powerful statement in an area where the story of faith stretches back well over 200 years. Before the disciples ever broke bread, “they gathered” and today in the Heath we are rededicating a fitting place for any community to gather.

On this Trinity Sunday, as we celebrate the God who is love. And perhaps remember this afternoon those who first traced the sign of the Cross on our forehead – our parents, the priest who baptised us, our first teacher in Junior or Baby Infants. Many now in eternity. May they and all who will gather for sacraments and moments of prayer here be richly blessed. Amen.

[1] 2 Cor. 13:13

[2] Ex. 34:6