Celebrating Priesthood in the Diocese of Kilmore in this Year of Prayer for Vocations (2):

I was in my teenage years when this priest came to our parish. He was full of energy and great to get people involved in church activities. One day I went to confession to him and said that I was struggling to get on with my parents. Instead of penance he asked me to go home and tell my parents that I loved them. In a house where love or feelings were never mentioned and not encouraged this was worse than any penance and I really struggled with it. A number of times I opened my mouth to say it and didn’t have the courage. Three and five years later I finally plucked up the courage to say it to one parent and then the other to much discomfort on both sides. It was never mentioned again by my parents, but I was comforted over the years that at least they knew that I did love them. In later years when they were ill, I found it much easier to say it to them again and with one surviving parent I can now say it each time we meet. A few years ago, I wrote to this priest to thank him and to let him know the significant impact that he had on my relationship with my parents.

He was a great believer in sports for young people and when I was a young adult he asked if I would attend a meeting to set up a camogie club in the area. At the time the football teams were for boys only and the priest wanted something set up for the girls too. He called a meeting and there were only a few in attendance so we were sent off to bring two people each to the next meeting. The camogie club was set up and he went off contented. The teams did very well over the years, climbing up through the various levels, great friendships were made (and have lasted) and we had lots of fun. The camaraderie and sense of solidarity we had, the physical fitness and sense of achievement were great. When I would meet him, I would update him on how we were getting on. He would be quietly pleased and didn’t ask nor receive any recognition for the number of lives that were enriched through the club.

He was a quiet man, who gave great sermons especially at a funeral. Families were often comforted by what he said about the deceased as he told their life stories from baptism to death. He was in our parish when I had the first experience of a close family death. He offered to tell my mother that her husband, the man she loved most in the world had died suddenly. She was out walking with her grandchildren when he met her, and he chatted to her until she got next door to home before he told her. In her distress she ran the rest of the way home and left the children behind. Our priest calmly told the children he would bring them home and pushed the baby in the buggy. He got the children to wait outside and knocked the door to get one of their parents to come out to decide what was best for the children at that time. In his wisdom he looked after my mother, and he then made sure that the children didn’t arrive into turmoil as the family grieved with the sudden shock. I remember him sitting quietly without judgement as I came into the room cried brokenheartedly. He helped guide us through the next few days asking what we needed and giving us support. He gave a lovely homily about my dad which helped us celebrate his life. When he left the parish, he gave me his notes for the homily which he had found when packing.