Bishop Martin Hayes was the principal celebrant of a special Mass of Thanksgiving in the Cathedral of SS. Patrick and Felim in Cavan on the First Sunday of Advent, 27 November 2022, to mark the completion of significant renovations in the Cathedral. He was joined in the concelebration of the Mass by Bishop-Emeritus Leo O’Reilly, Monsignor Liam Kelly PP VG, the priests of the Cathedral Parish of Urney and Annagelliff led by Fr. Kevin Fay, Administrator, and by other priests of the diocese.
A View of the Congregation
The Chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council, Neil Doherty, welcomed all present before Mass began with the Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling of Holy Water..
Neil Doherty, Chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council
Bishop Martin sprinkles the congregation with holy water at the beginning of Mass
The Cathedral Choir led the singing with Thomas Hanley, Diocesan Director of Church Music, as organist.
Bishop Martin accepts the gifts of bread and wine in the Offertory Procession
Some of the concelebrating clergy
Michael Mulvey, Chairperson of the Parish Finance Committee, addressed the congregation before the final blessing and made a presentation to Fr. Fay, acknowledging his hard work in bringing the renovation works to completion.
Michael Mulvey, Chairperson of the Parish Finance Committee
Among those attending the Mass were Councillor John Paul Feeley, Cathaoirleach of Cavan County Council, and his wife, Niamh as well as Canon Mark Lidwell of the Church of Ireland and his wife, Barbara.
Refreshments were served afterwards in St. Patrick’s College, Cavan.
Bishop Martin’s homily is given below:
Our Gospel concludes with the line from Jesus stating “you too must stand ready” referring to his Second Coming of the Lord among us as distinct to that of his First Coming as a little baby born in a stable at Bethlehem. While our Gospel is not specifically about the Birth of Jesus, today the First Sunday of Advent, marks the beginning of our getting ready for Christmas. We are called to be always ready, to be open to the ways in which Jesus is constantly seeking to enter our lives.
Yes, the cares, concerns, worries and joys of this life preoccupy us. However, we are called to be always ready, to be awake to the ways in which Jesus wants to break into our lives. We gather in places like this Cathedral to heighten the possibility of that happening, places that allow us space to encourage each other, to reflect, to pray and to worship God our Creator.
Throughout the Summer months, parishioners took shelter within a marquee – a nice name for a tent – pitched on the Cathedral grounds. As we were experiencing some unseasonable cold winds, blustery conditions and rain, which tested the ropes and pegs of our tent, we were more alert to each other as we were asking ourselves ‘will the Cathedral be ready for September?’
Today, we celebrate and give thanks for the success of all those efforts to be ready. We celebrate the ‘meitheal’, the organisation of all the work, the meetings before, on-site and afterwards in making sure that our Cathedral was renewed and ready. Today, we can take time to reflect on how it was achieved by way of the willingness of the different craftspeople and skilled personnel as well as the generosity of the volunteers to work together.
We give thanks in the spirit of our second chosen reading from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians which speaks of “a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit”. We rejoice in how in a spirit of comradery motived by the belief that ‘this was no ordinary project, it was the Cathedral, it was after all, our Cathedral’. Therefore, it is appropriate to state that “the Lord worked in different ways in different people” to bring the work to its completion. Now we can reflect further on why this project was undertaken – to ensure a place of prayer and liturgical celebration in this parish of Urney & Annagelliff and in this diocese of Kilmore, a place to get ready for the Coming of the Lord into our lives.
Our first reading from Isaiah describes the vision of the Temple of Jerusalem, ‘on a height, and of the hope of people streaming to it, walking together in the light of the Lord’. That vision fits with this fine site of the Cathedral of St. Patrick & St. Felim. Of course, our original Cathedral was located at Kilmore up until the mid-15th Century Reformation times. Then after an absence of 300 years, from beginnings with a 1750’s Mass house here in Cavan to a chapel built near this site during 1774, rebuilt in 1823 and extended in 1862, we had a Cathedral dedicated to St. Patrick. Then from 1938 until 1942, this Cathedral of St. Patrick & St. Felim took shape and today we celebrate, this magnificent achievement of its renewal.
We are familiar with the elements of the renewal project; the installation of a new heating system, ceiling insulation, electrical wiring throughout, smoke alarm system, internal and external lighting, refurbishment of the seating, draft extruding doorways, audio-video screens as well as cleaning which has given the Cathedral a visible uplift. Of course, much of the work done, e.g., the electrical wiring is hidden in that it is not all visible. Indeed, much of the organising and managing of the project to ensure its completion could remain hidden. However, today, we have the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the efforts of all involved, to give thanks for their work, as well as for those who have been involved and who continue with the fundraising efforts. We give thanks for all who have and are contributing to the ongoing fundraising campaign.
Our Cathedral is ready for the future, and we know that the effort that has gone into the project has been worthwhile. All who have been involved know what it is to work together, to collaborate, to coordinate work schedules and share tools in order to fulfil one purpose, the future proofing of this Cathedral for the next generations. A challenge for us now as a diocese, as parishes, is to prepare the take next steps to continue to grow in faith.
As we reflect upon the value of the experience of bringing this project of the refurbishment of our Cathedral to completion, in particular, that spirit of ‘all hands-on deck’, we have some guidance for our way forward as a People of God. We have a building, a state-of-the-art Cathedral in ship shape, now we must build upon that experience of collaboration so as to continue build the Church, the People of God, in our parishes, in our diocese and in our world.
Our first reading from Isaiah about the Temple in Jerusalem, of course, is not just about a building, it is the Lord calling for world peace; to ‘the turning of swords into ploughshares and spears into sickles’. However, today we live in a world that is not at peace. Pope Francis is calling us in this time of turmoil in our world and having just emerged from the pandemic to be a synodal Church, to be the People of God journeying, walking together. He is inviting us to be conscious of having received the blessing of baptism, (which we celebrated in the sprinkling of the Holy Water), into that communion with each other as sisters and brothers in Christ. At this time, we are invited to walk together in listening to each other, to God in the Scriptures, to help make each other ready to hear what God is saying to us at this time.
Our own ‘conversation about our faith into the future’ here in Kilmore Diocese – our synodal journey so far – has revealed the value we place on our faith, the desire for greater inclusion in decision-making and in our liturgies, the inclusion of the energy and insights of our young people, all with a view to addressing the real needs of people so that we can truly be Church and relevant as the People of God.
The reality, of course, is that we face huge challenges in our parishes in the coming years. Our priests and deacons who are dedicating their lives to leading our parish faith communities are ageing and getting fewer in number (as I highlighted in my Pastoral Letter of March 10th this year). We have 48 priests in active ministry, with projections of 37 in 5 years’ time and 27 in less than 10 years. All of us, parishioners, Parish Pastoral Councils, priests, deacons, bishop must continue with our conversations to address the future of our parishes and focus upon developing models of lay leadership for the future.
Thankfully, we have established a tradition of lay involvement through our Parish Pastoral Councils. All our decisions and plans for the future need to be worked out in consultation with all our people, priests, deacons and religious. It is not easy as there are many different views on the way forward and we must really listen to them all, embrace them, find the truth within them and work together rather than go it alone in isolation from each other. The way forward in faith is that of spiritual conversation, that is, listening to each other in heart-to-heart conversations, so that we can enlarge our tent, our minds, our hearts to be open to new ways of growing in faith into the future.
We know what it is like here in Cavan, over the summer months, to be in a tent. That image of the tent is very different from the solidity of our fine refurbished and now warm Cathedral building. Today, we rejoice in the splendour of the Cathedral of St. Patrick & St. Felim which affords a place to celebrate our faith and ‘stand ready for the Coming of the Lord’. However, we are more than a building, as Church, as the People of God. The image of the tent reminds us of the challenges, the opportunities that lie ahead. May we always be ready to welcome and include, to listen so as to be always ready to hear how God is speaking to us and ‘stand ready for the Coming of the Lord’.