MASS OF FAREWELL TO THE CURRENT BUILDING OF THE
CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Church of the Annunciation, Finglas West, 7 October 2018
“Very often when I visit a Parish for some occasion, someone welcomes me saying that they appreciate the Archbishop taking time out of his busy schedule to visit us. There is something wrong in that statement. I do not deny that I have a busy schedule and I thank God that I still have the energy to keep going. What is wrong in that statement is to think that visiting a parish is somehow an optional extra in the work of a bishop. Quite the opposite.
As Archbishop I am always delighted to visit parishes. It is great to celebrate Mass with parish communities, to learn first-hand about the challenges and the joys of life in a parish, to witness how parish communities reflect in our often harsh society something of what witnessing to the love of God means in their lives and in the lives of their community.
Visiting a parish reminds me of the real affection people have for their priests and for their own Church. Visiting parishes is something that energises me and give me confidence that the Church is strong despite the challenges it faces or the criticism that it often encounters.
This morning however I cannot say that I set out with the same sentiments. I come as most of you did with mixed feelings. I would rather have been setting out to open a new Church than to find myself closing a building that has meant so much to this community over the years.
Travelling around even outside Ireland I often meet people from Finglas and if you ask them what part of Finglas, they will easily answer “The Annunciation” or “Canices”. Rarely do you find people who identify where they come from by the name of their parish church. This goes to show just how rooted this Church building has become in the community over many generations.
Everyone who is here today, whether they live in the area or have roots here, are both sad and thankful Each of you has your own memories – baptisms, first communions, confirmations, weddings, funerals and other great events or intimate personal moments of prayer.
Times are changing and we all realise that whatever our emotional bond and attachment with this Church, it has become too large for today’s needs, maintenance has become problematic and its structure is showing signs of its age. It is time to take a new look at our needs and start a new beginning.
This Church has been not just a landmark physically, but a landmark in the history of the community. Even those who no longer have any link with the Church have an affection for it and a recognition of what this Church has meant over the years for Finglas.
This morning we give thanks to God for all those who have over the years helped to build up the community around this Church. I could list all the priests who have ministered here and many of you would immediately remember with affection who I was talking about. There have been sacristans who have been figures who kept the Church going and in good shape and were there at moments of joy and grief. There have been choirs and this Church is renowned for its music. There have been altar servers and there have been cleaners and flower arrangers. The list goes on.
The church has also been intimately linked with the local schools and many local organizations. Rarely has a Church building been so much the focal point around which community flourished.
Where do we go from now? There are clear plans to build a new smaller and purpose built Church and a pastoral centre and, working with Dublin City Council, to use the land for social services and housing for the elderly.
The details are important but the most important thing is that this new complex, which will take the place of the current Church, will be a true place of prayer and worship and a real focal point for community. The new complex must become a place where community will be built up and where people will learn anew how to care for one another in the different times to come.
The readings of the Mass might seem at first sight to be a little curious for this celebration. They are the readings of the day. The Gospel seems to be just about divorce and about a demanding teaching of Jesus. That is not simply the case. The Gospel reading is really about our God who is a God who is always faithful. The history of God’s people is a history of unfaithfulness in great and small things. God however remains faithful in times that change.
That should be our encouragement in changing times. There are those who will only see in our gathering today a negative sign. They will see it only as a sign of a declining Church. We who believe in Jesus Christ know however that God is faithful and he renews his Church in remarkable ways.
Our celebration today is a sign of our faith that the new complex will lead us on the path of renewal. Renewal means more than patching up the present. It means creating something new and different in which the message of Jesus Christ will touch the heart of the Finglas of tomorrow as this Church has done over so many years.
The conclusion of the Gospel reading reminds us of the special place of children in the teaching of Jesus. It is reminder that as we look towards the future, the future must belong to the generations of tomorrow. The message of Jesus can touch the hearts of every generation and we must pass on that message to our young people. We must also listen to our young people and recognise the goodness that is in them and accompany them to make the path of their lives one of happiness and fulfilment.
The people who came to Finglas when this Church was being built came with very little financial means. Despite having scarce financial wealth, they built up something that has lasted. Housing states were turned into communities. Generations emerged of hard-working people who knew what good neighbourliness means. Young people were accompanied and the elderly were respected. We have to ensure that this spirit endures and where things go wrong we have to rediscover what is best in this community.
Go away from this Mass being proud of Finglas. You have so much to be proud of and make sure that the many things of which you can be proud of can flourish in new ways in the years to come. God bless this community.