18/11/06 Homily for the 50th Anniversary of Our Lady’s Children’s Hopsital, Crumlin

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Homily given by Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of all Ireland
at the Mass to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin,
Pro Cathedral, Saturday 18th Nov ’06.
Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital is the fruit of a dream.   It is the fruit of a dream from way back in the nineteen thirty’s, a time of harsh poverty in this city and around Ireland.

The dream was that Dublin could have a new, world class children’s hospital of which we could all be proud.  The dream was of my predecessor Archbishop Edward Byrne, a man too seldom remembered, who had a special concern for the poor of Dublin.  He had ministered for many years as a Curate here in the Pro-Cathedral, from where he knew the situation of the poor and where he was extraordinarily respected by the poor.
Typical of the man was one of the first letters that he wrote to the newly established Irish government.  It was not about power and influence or a condemnation of public immorality, but a personal appeal to provide concrete support for the many unmarried mothers and their children in this area whom he saw to be among the most vulnerable in society.
Archbishop Byrne was for much of his time as Archbishop himself a sick man as harsh Parkinson’s disease, for which there was little that medicine could do at that time, gradually forced him to withdraw from public appearances.   But there were a number of issues that he followed with care, one of them being the children’s hospital.  He managed to acquire a site in Crumlin which he handed over to a board whom he hoped would turn his dream first into a project and then into a reality.
It took time and the commitment of his successor Archbishop McQuaid – who with Dr Stafford Johnson had already been advising Archbishop Byrne – to bring the project to reality just fifty years ago this year.
Our Lady’s Children Hospital Crumlin in these fifty years achieved the dream of Archbishop Byrne and much more.   The hospital became a centre of excellence in medicine, in nursing, in research.  It became a place of hope for many; where hope of a cure could not be realised it became a place of consolation and support.
Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital built up an extraordinary sense of team work and it soon became part of the community in Dublin.  Many of its innovative infrastructures would not have been built without voluntary contributions – in many cases indeed exclusively with voluntary donations, without State aid.  People gave willingly.  The community cared about the hospital.  Celebrities and sports stars would willingly give their time to bring a moment of joy to the children.  The Irish Naval Service established a wonderful partnership with the hospital.
A special tribute is due to the Daughters of Charity who managed the hospital for many years and their dedication certainly has left an indelible print on the style of the hospital.  That has been maintained and is carried on by an exceptionally dedicated and professional nursing staff.  When I think of the ethos of Crumlin Hospital I think of the extraordinary pride of management and staff in providing an excellent service of care for patients and their families without ever counting the cost.
Crumlin has had the good fortune to have around it representative groups of parents who have contributed – and done so forcefully – through their own experience and commitment to the desire to ensure that the original dream which gave rise to Crumlin hospital would develop with the times.  That dream remains the same:  that we can have a world class, tertiary level children’s facility – linked into a comprehensive national programme for children’s health – of which we can all be proud.
We are at the beginning of a new stage in the history of that dream.  Archbishop Byrne donated the current site.  His aim was not control, but a hope that the best could be achieved.   We live in a much more affluent Ireland.  The funds to radically launch a project for the next fifty year are there and the concepts are clear.  I know that, like my predecessor, Crumlin Hospital and all its components only wants the very best to emerge and will willingly throw its energies, accomplishments and extraordinary expertise into such project of excellence.
My hope is that those who have the project in hand will move forward with the same single-mindedness as Archbishop Byrne did, putting aside questions of personal and institutional interest, to attain what is best for the children of Ireland.
I have no idea what the situation will be in fifty years time and what my successor might say at the centenary.  What I do know is that the next fifty years will bear all the marks of the experience of the generosity and personal commitment which made Crumlin Children’s Hospital what it is.  If that commitment and generosity is in any way soured or frustrated by not fully and coherently availing of the current opportunity then we will have lost something quite precious for society.
Crumlin Hospital is the fruit of Christian commitment.  Over fifty years, generations of lay men and women have worked together to realise in our time the mission that Jesus set for himself and his followers Jesus at the outset of his public life.  Christianity is not just a collection of commandment and rules, but above all bearing witness to a God who is love and who anoints us, as his followers, to construct generation after generation a civilization of love, where human needs are addressed and the vulnerable are restored to wholeness.
We thank God for what Crumlin hospital has been able to achieve.  We can all feel justifiability proud of our association with a project which in a spectacular way has looked after the interests of children and brought them healing and wholeness through an extraordinary mix of dedication, care, professional expertise and technology.
Archbishop McQuaid wished the hospital to be called after the Mother of God, invoking her maternal protection on all involved.  Mary is the model of discipleship for all Christians.  Like her, who pondered the word of her divine Son, we are mandated to ponder on a draw out of God’s word the best ways of making God’s care concrete in the Ireland of today.