Funeral Mass: Fr. Jimmy Doyle RIP:                                   28.10.20

Church of Christ the King, Cooleragh @ 12noon

Introduction:

We gather within the very limited and restricted context of COVID-19 to pay a faithfilled farewell to Fr. Jimmy Doyle. Even saying those words is hard.

It’s tough to believe that he will not be back celebrating on the altar here in Cooleragh or over in Staplestown where he had so firmly rooted himself over the past six years. That he will not be over in St. Conleth’s Park, Newbridge sitting in the bucket seats at the town end goals sparring with some ‘Lily White’ that Carlow was rising. That he will not be sitting at the table over in the house, hosting hospitality for me on my many visits here, for his brother priests, for the young John Paul II team and their leaders or the Parish Pastoral Council.

Jimmy’s passing last Friday in his home parish of Clonegal was a bolt from the blue for all of us. But none moreso than you Jimmy’s family – his sister Sr. Margaret, a Brigidine in San Antonio, Texas, Josie, Eileen and Frances; brother-in-law Ray; nieces Emma, Niamh and Siobhan; nephews Raymond, John Aonghus and Lorcan; grandnieces and grandnephews, cousins and friends – the priests of Kildare & Leighlin, his classmates from the 1974 Carlow College Ordination Class and his many many friends, joining us in their thousands today, including Sr. Margaret in San Antonio, Bishop Paul Dempsey in Ballaghaderreen, all with us through the parish webcam.

I welcome the company of the small number of priests around me, friends and neighbours of Jimmy. I welcome Rev. Greg Ryan, Rector of Millicent and Donadea representing our Church of Ireland friends. You are all very welcome and as a very large virtual congregation and a much more limited physical congregation, let us begin this Requiem as at every Mass in calling to mind our own brokenness, our own pain, our own sin and asking the Lord for forgiveness …

Homily:

The Book of Ecclesiastes reflection on time is of itself timely as the autumnal leaves dangle on branches by a thread and the clocks go back an hour. “A time to give birth, a time for dying[1] – last Friday didn’t seem the right time for us to see Jimmy pass from time with family and friends into eternity with God. Jimmy didn’t get to turn back the dial on his watch or the clock on his sideboard. That will be done by others.

Time was an important concept for Jimmy. Time with family, how he loved celebrating the sacramental moments with his nieces and nephews. Time with friends, he was absorbed by the GAA. Kildavin, Sarsfields, Coill Dubh, St. Kevin’s, Kildare and most of all Carlow – his house beyond is a shrine to this love of GAA. While his passion was football and hurling, he loved all sport. On my very last visit with him for three smaller Confirmation ceremonies last month, as I admired medals hanging in his sitting room, he reminded me “you have no other priest in the diocese with three Senior Club medals!”. He referred to Kildavin’s Carlow Senior Championship titles in 1966, 1970 and 1973. There may be some dispute regarding whether the first one was won on or off the field, there is no disputing the other two. And now that treble medal holder is no longer with us.

Ecclesiastes also apeaks of “A time for healing[2] and “A time for searching[3]. Jimmy knew when he needed time for self, time for care, time for nourishment. Jimmy knew the days of doubt and darkness, times when he had to dig deeper to see the light within himself. He lived the third verse of todays psalm: “Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, Yet will I fear no ill; For thou art with me, and Thy rod and staff my comfort still[4]. In the shade Jimmy found Christ and having made that journey, Jimmy became that light to many on their own journies. And that’s what made him so approachable, so amenable, so affable to many. The tributes across every social media platform, those written on rip.ie all attest to this man’s humility, kindness, genuineness.

When a priest dies in a parish, I immediately think of his good friend Fr. PJ Byrne of Kilcock and Fr. John Cummins of Abbeyleix, their sudden death leaves a huge void in its wake. For parishioners the priest is part of everyones family, everyones occasion. As someone said to me “it’s like someone has died in every family in our parish”. Jimmy put his heart into countless projects, initiatives and plans that will remain a living testament to his presence among you, following in the footsteps of his late uncle, Fr. John Doyle who built this church. Fr John may have built the church, but those who came after him and Fr Jimmy built the parish. A parish where lay involvement was encouraged and affirmed.

For family with the ordination of an uncle, granduncle or brother so much rests from then on, on the priests’ shoulders, he is a part of every family celebration, a confidant in every family difference, a shoulder to lean on through the rough patches. The priest is the one who should be burying the others, not they him. It’s hard for the family today to countenance an event or an occasion without Jimmy.

For priests it’s another colleague, at a time of depleting numbers, the death of someone active in ministry is a callous blow. Particularly someone who like PJ before him in Kilcock did everything he could to encourage fraternity. But we also are people of hope, hope grounded in faith that death is not the end, but in fact the beginning of eternal life with the Lord and with friends gone before us into eternity. Our faith doesn’t sweeten the bitterness of death but it reassures of what awaits all of us – our belief in the resurrection. We are days away from the beginning of November, the Month of All Souls when we remember in prayer those gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Jimmy is now added to our November list.

He follows his lifelong friend Liam Comer who has gone on that journey into eternity six months ahead of Jimmy. Jimmy watched Liam’s illness and how that illness robbed Liam of life and prayed he would be spared that and so he was. He struck up a friendship with Liam on their very first night in Carlow College, maybe he was the brother Jimmy never had. St. Luke speaks in our gospel about being “dressed for action[5], if that means walking boots, cap and stick, Jimmy was ready.

Among the many tributes paid to Fr. Jimmy in recent days was a video shared many times on FaceBook entitled “Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís” (Ní feg a laith/aid ann arís) “you’ll never see the likes of him again”. In it the Pope John Paul II young people share their story of Jimmy. One young man refers to Fr. Jimmy’s prayer, inspired by Fr. Faber. Frederick William Faber died in 1863, he was the great preacher in the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in London and he was obviously a huge influence on Fr. Jimmy’s spirituality. Fr. Jimmy prayed this prayer at every Mass just before intoning ‘O Sacrament Most Holy’ …

It was only a sunny smile
And little it cost in the giving.
But it scattered the night like the morning light
And made the day worth living.

It was only a friendly word,
A word that was lightly spoken.
Yet not in vain, for it chilled the pain
Of a heart that was nearly broken.

It was only a helping hand
And it seemed of little availing.
But its clasps were warm
And it saved from harm
A brother whose strength was failing.

For Jimmy, kindness made life more endurable. The God he believed in was a God of kindness, gentleness and understanding. May we be the essence of kindness to one another as we prepare to release Jimmy today back to the arms of his maker. And may he rest in peace. Amen.

Word of Thanks:

  • The tributes and appreciations shared by many in text messages, on the condolences section of rip.ie, on Facebook, on Twitter, in local papers, in email messages are all a huge consolation to Jimmy’s family, friends and all of us at this time.
  • Jimmy was very definite, he wanted no eulogy, he disliked attention being lavished on himself – Jimmy’s sisters and wider family would like me to thank all of you for your support over recent days – the neighbours at Craan, the parishioners here in Staplestown & Cooleragh parish – the first responders and emergency teams who were on the frontline for Jimmy last Friday and remain on the frontline for all of us through COVID and beyond.
  • It was Jimmy’s wish to be cremated – we will shortly leave for that journey to Newlands Cross – once again I thank you for observing social distance etiquette and all other precautions as we protect the most vulnerable here from COVID-19.
  • The funeral cortege will pass through Coill Dubh village, up to Brockagh Cross, through Prosperous Village, into Sallins (pausing at the entrance to the church) taking a left at Monread roundabout making its way to Newlands Cross Crematorium. If you are on the early part of that route, you are welcome to stand at your door with a candle as a mark of respect.
  • Once again many thanks for your cooperation and assistance on this most difficult of all days. At a local level I want to thank Catherine, the secretary; Josie, the sacristan; Liam and all the members of the Parish Pastoral Council; Marian, Jimmy’s housekeeper; Michelle, Ann & Aylish and the Pope John Paul II team; the stewards and ushers; Fr. Pat Ryan, a Mill Hill Missionary Priest who as a friend of Jimmy’s has been covering duty for Jimmy and has been a great support to the parishioners in recent days and will be in the days to come. I thank all involved in todays liturgy as well as our Funeral Director, Paul.
  • Let us stand for the prayers of final commendation, and even at home I invite you to stand for these prayers …

[1] Qo 3:2

[2] Qo 3:3

[3] Qo 3:6

[4] Ps. 23:4

[5] Lk. 12:35

ENDS