Mass of Farewell in Balcurris

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Departure of Missionary Society of St Columban


Homily notes  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin,  Archbishop of Dublin


Saint Joseph’s Church, Ballymun, 30th September 2016


“Farewells are sad occasions.  Friendships are interrupted.  Happy memories fade back into the distance.  High hopes that we had, may seem never fully realised.

Farewells are also occasions to say thanks.  They are occasions when one looks back at what has been achieved.  They are occasions to look at things that have gone well and things which we may have only achieved in part, but which were not for that reason worthless.

This Parish of Saint Joseph has a remarkable history.  Father Eamon gave me a booklet that had been published in the year 2000, looking back at the history of the parish twenty five years after its foundation.   It was history of a very lively parish which was truly innovative.  It was very much a missionary parish, reaching out in new ways.  It was a parish of communities, of small Christian communities of formation, education, prayer, biblical reflection, social outreach and many other initiatives.

Each of these initiatives, if you look at them, was small.  But small does not mean weak or insignificant.  So often the small succeeds where big ideas fail.  There was strength in each of these initiatives because they were not initiatives of this or that priest or leader. Each of the initiatives involved small groups of parishioners who were committed and convinced and who gave their time and energy to help develop their own faith and that of others.  This tradition has continued and grown until today.

The Missionary Society of Saint Columban to which the parish was entrusted by Archbishop Dermot Ryan, has a noble history.  It has a great history of missionary activity, with the founding and strengthening of the Church in the Far East, but also in the Pacific Islands and in Latin America.  It was a missionary activity which had its own share of martyrs.  I imagine that many of those young men and women who joined the society over the years as priests or sisters were actually inspired by the witness of these martyrs to give their lives totally in order to spread the Gospel.

I hope that as time moves on and the history of the Society will be more fully researched and definitively recorded that there will be a special chapter in that history book dedicated to what was achieved here in Ballymun.  It would be a chapter – even if short – of which the Society would rightfully be very proud.

The list of the Fathers and Sisters and lay Columban missionaries who served here is long.  They are all men and women who had done missionary work in various parts of the world.  But I have a feeling that in their missionary hearts they will always maintain a real soft spot for the time, long or short, that they spent here in Ballymun.

Farewells make us look back and give thanks. But I am here this evening to look to the future.  So many lay men and women of this parish, so many young people, can face the future with a Christian formation that will enable them to live their faith stalwartly in a changing world.  The Columban Fathers will be sad at their own departure but they can be proud of the legacy they leave behind.  As they leave, they can well identify themselves with the words of our second reading “I am confident that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion”.

I am happy that we can look to the future well prepared, with a real sense of attachment to this parish and with a willingness to work with the other parishes in Ballymun to bring a changed pastoral response to a changed pastoral situation.

I am really happy and I know that you will be happy that this Church will remain open with its own dedicated priest.  I am not talking however just about having doors open.  Doors will remain open to ensure that activities and the prayers and worship can take place and flourish.  Working together for Mission in all three parishes will make that task more effective in the changed situation.

This is a turning point in the history of the Catholic community of Ballymun. Ballymun is a community which encountered much suffering.  It is a community which was victim of many promises made, but never fulfilled.  It is a community which on many occasions must have felt abandoned.  It was, however, a community which never gave up.  It is a community which did so much for its children and young people exposed to pressures of drugs and violence.  The community can be proud of its schools and indeed can be proud of its children.

The Gospel we have just heard is not an easy Gospel.  Jesus is demanding. “Let the dead bury their dead” and “when you put your hand to the plough there is no turning back” leave little room for lukewarm-ness or compromise.

Jesus can give these commands because he himself, as he says, “has no place to lay done his head”.  He shows us that we can only be truly free when we abandon all shallow selfish interest and empty ambitions.

The booklet which Father Eamon gave me ends with a quote which seems to close Saint John and which we could well apply to the end of this chapter of the history of this parish.  “There are many other things that Jesus did which are not written down in this book. But these are written so that you can believe and that believing you may have life in his name”.

It is a wonderful conclusion of the Gospel of Saint John.  But then something happens.  Just when you think that the Gospel has ended, it actually starts off again with a sort of appendix speaking about encounters of the disciples with the Risen Jesus.

We look back in Farewell. But we are not writing just a nice conclusion.  We are committing ourselves to open our hearts anew to encounter Jesus and to witness to him in the way we live.

We say thanks to all those who have ministered here and we place our trust in the Lord and in this great community of believing Christians in Balcurris that – under the leadership of the new Parish team – we will keep alive the message and the love of Jesus in this community in the years to come.