Ashford Church Centenary

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Homily notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin


Ashford, 30th June 2017

“The Centenary of a Parish Church is a great occasion for any community. This centenary of the Church of the Most Holy Rosary has been very well prepared and I congratulate all those who have been involved in the preparations: the Chairman of the Centenary Committee and the Members of the Committee, the Composer of the Jubilee Mass and the Ashford Choir that will perform it. We thank Father Eamonn Crossan, together with the Parish Pastoral Council and all those who have rallied round to make this such a proud celebration.

I like to be present at Centenary Celebrations because they have a special character. At a time in which the Church faces many challenges and no little negative criticism, on an occasion like this people look back with pride at what their Church community has achieved. What emerges is the extraordinary contribution that a believing community brings to the society around us. Beyond what may have been noted and written in the media or the history books, everyone here today will have good memories of important events, joyful or sad, in their own lives and how this Church building and the community around it played central part in such events.

This Church is the place where the deeper events of life in the community are celebrated. You will have memories of bringing your children to be baptised, or the celebration of First Holy Communions and Confirmations, the joyful celebration of marriages and the sad occasions of bringing parishioners to their final resting place at the end of their earthily journey.

There will also that have been moments that are even more deeply personal when you will have come here quietly and alone at a moment of trial or to thank God for some special blessing. The history of this community is intimately intertwined with what this Church has meant for many.

So many other dimensions of the life of this community also sprung up around the life of the Church. I am thinking of the schools and of forms of social commitment and care of the sick and those who are deprived. The world has changed since 1917 when the work of this Church building was completed, after the foundation stone had been laid some years earlier.

We could easily overlook how difficult those times were for Ireland. Difficult times, but times that were to mark great change and were to open the way towards an independent Ireland. The noble aspirations of the men and women of 1916 were however not attained in a day. They were constructed day after day, month after month and year after year through the commitment of families and individuals who wished to preserve in an independent Ireland the values that make us proud to be Irish.

That is a task that has been carried on until our day and must continue into the future. Times have changed and attitudes have changed, but there are certain values that remain the same and need to be reaffirmed year after year not just in theory but also through the way communities work.

As I said that, the Church has gone through difficult times and many people were hurt and disillusioned by events that took place and by the response of Church authorities. Nevertheless, we celebrate this evening also a great tradition of caring and loving which has flourished over the years and has bound community together. Still today in a more secularised Ireland, our society has need of a strong injection of Christian values. Those values are the building blocks of a society that is good. Not everything that is modern is good. Indeed many of the things that are good are things that we have inherited from our Christian past and which modernity needs to know, to appreciate and to build on.
I was pleased to see the scroll that records the names of the priests who have ministered in this Church since its inception. That scroll is a reminder of the great dedication of our priests; we pray this evening for the repose of those priests who have passed on from this life, and we pray in support of those still living and ministering today. I was especially touched by the reference to the Chalice of Father Eddie Barry.

Today we celebrate one hundred years of this simple yet beautiful building. We celebrate a hundred years of many things of which we can be proud. This jubilee is therfore an occasion in which we can remind our young people of the values that endure and challenge our young people to be protagonists of those values in their world of today and tomorrow. We were all young once and filled with hopes and dreams and ideals. People of my age have to learn to leave space for the young people of today who deep-down have their ideals, hope, and dreams and to encourage them to take on the task of authentically translating perennial values into the language of their times. I have great hope in our young people. If they are given the opportunity, they will work to change our world for the better. In our Centenary celebration we pray especially for the young people of the Parish as the builders of Church life in the century to come.

Many things have changed over the past century. For person and the teaching of Jesus Christ. us this evening there is one thing that remains essential and unchanged: the The question which in the Gospel reading Jesus put to his disciples is still actual and important: “Who do people say that the Son of man is?” “Who is Jesus for us today?” We see from the answers that the disciples did not fully recognise Jesus. They thought of him rightly as belonging to the great tradition of the prophets like John the Baptist, Elijah or Jeremiah.

Today many ask the same question: “Who is Jesus” and are not always able immediately to recognise Jesus in their lives. We, as a parish community, must witness to Jesus and help others to move to understand Jesus as someone who cares and who is there when we fail, not as a distant or uncaring judge, but as the one who helps us to stand again and be fully ourselves.

This Church building is a place of prayer and worship. It is not just any meeting place. It is the place where Jesus is present with us in all the ups and down of our lives. It is easy for us to create a Jesus of our own liking, a Jesus that will leave us comfortable. Jesus is however the one who challenges us, changes us, and helps us to bring something deeper into the way we live and bring that depth into the society around us.

We give thanks for those who over the past hundred years have lived the Christian life in an exemplary way and who have passed the message of faith from one generation to the next, nourished by the presence of Jesus in this Church of the Most Holy Rosary and in this believing community.”