Homily – Our Mission Together – 7th Sunday A
19th February 2017
Today marks my fifth birthday as your Parish Priest. It is a tribute to your warmth, faithfulness, love and prayer that I still find great fulfilment in being a pastoral priest and in maintaining my enthusiasm for Our Mission Together – fulfilling our Catholic commitment in the Diocese of Shrewsbury.
It is about this mission that I would like to speak with you today. You will recall Bishop Mark’s letter that I read here at Mass two weeks ago on the ‘Renewal of our Mission’ and Pope Francis’ call to be Missionary disciples.
Let me tell you about my own mission and why I am a priest working in this Diocese. At the age of 12 I left home to go to Boarding School with a view to becoming a Redemptorist Missionary Priest, excited at the prospect of working in India, Brazil or the Philippines. However that was not to be. Instead of moving with some of my class mates to the Noviciate, I went instead to a College training priests to work in Dioceses in the English speaking world.
I met with many Diocesan representatives looking for students to train as Priests for their Diocese. The perks in some American Dioceses were very appealing but what attracted me to Shrewsbury was the challenge of hard work. I never regretted my decision. I am frequently asked would I like to return to work in Ireland, given the shorter of priests; my emphatic answer is no – my commitment to this |Diocese is for life
I also made a promise on the day of Ordination that I would work for and respect the authority of the Bishop, who has responsibility for the overall pastoral care of the Diocese. Putting the needs of the Diocese above one’s personal preference is not always easy; the blessings compensate – you are among these blessings.
In ‘Our Mission Together’ Bishop Mark says ‘we are seeking to develop pastoral and financial resources for three keys areas in Shrewsbury Diocese.’
Support for vocations for the Priesthood, for those in active ministry and for priests as they reach retirement.
Funding of parish projects to take forward our mission locally:
The development of mission and social outreach with the lead priority being a youth mission team; support for the vocation of marriage and the training and support of lay catechists in our parishes.
Let me give a little context for each of these three projects
Firstly, the training of priests and care for retired priests.
My training was low cost to the Diocese – supported by family, College bursaries, working in the holidays. Today it costs the Diocese more than a university education…we have five training at present, and the Irish supply line is finished.
When I first came to the Diocese there were no priests living in retirement; they usually died with their boots on. Now we have 29 priests living in retirement, some in houses, and others in flats or apartments or living in Presbyteries – two of whom served here in Our Lady’s and are known to many of you. All of this is funded centrally by the Diocese.
Secondly, the parish project I would like to suggest is the renewal of the Window above the organ one of the great features of our Church. . We are blessed with a Church that is an architectural gem and that never ceases to amaze people. Recently, thanks to the generosity of a benefactor the Church was newly painted. The best possibility for the funding of the restoration of the window will be through a campaign such as this one. An organ fund already exists, but the restoration of the window needs to happen before work on the organ happens.
Thirdly, the development of a mission that reaches out to and embrace people , families and people that are vulnerable and often on the margins, such as refugees; the new forms of poverty such as isolation and loneliness, the kind of people that Pope Francis frequently speaks about and challenges us to do likewise. This is what the recently launched Shrewsbury Caritas is all about. Included in this also is our mission to young people, training of catechists and in handing down our faith to generations yet to come.
The Diocese has engaged the services of consultative company to help with the launching of this campaign and offer professional guidance. They have also helped other Dioceses in England and Wales to have successful campaigns.
The leadership of and support of the Parish Priest is integral to the success of this. You would be right in suspecting that this is not an area that I feel comfortable with. So in the coming weeks –in addition to the work commitments I already have – I need to undertake and make time for personal conversations with you, to talk to you about ‘Our Mission Together’, to provide you with literature that will give you a fuller picture to help you to make your own decision.
The good news is that the thirty parishes so far that have engaged with this campaign £3.5 million have been pledged over a five year period. Priests too are making a personal pledge from their resources. I too will make my own personal pledge. I am reminded of one of my mother’s sayings, that you never miss what you give to the Church.
As with all things, it is voluntary, and whatever the amount people pledge it will help strengthen and develop our mission.
However challenging or difficult I may find this – and I do – it will not alter my pastoral relationship and rapport with you.
The scriptural readings for today are particularly beautiful and challenging. They are Jesus’ vision for being part of the kingdom of God, in which we are asked to love our neighbour, to let go off past hurts and resentment and not to seek revenge. Jesus is inviting us to live with a love that goes beyond the ordinary.
Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile – I will need to do – leaving the past behind, ploughing a new furrow, and looking to the future with confidence in seeing everything through the eyes and with the heart of Jesus will bring many blessings, and inner peace and harmony.
In speaking to you today about ‘Our Mission Together’ it becomes quite liberating when we come to realise that what lies at the heart of Mission is the renewal of our relationship with Jesus, an inner conversion of the heart and launching out into deeper waters. It can never be about money only – without Christ everything is nothing. .
Mission is rooted in the Mass – the word Mass is derived from Mission. Every time we come to Mass we are sent out to love and serve the Lord. It is always a work in progress, and in the words of today’s Gospel striving ‘to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect’.
Jesus does not leave us to grieve without hope or help. He sends his spirit to
us, the Holy Spirit to make us firm in faith and serene in hope. Let us pray:
Lord, Thomas lived his life in the light of faith, and was grateful for the kindness and love he received from other people. Welcome him into everlasting life.
Lord, hear us.
Lord, comfort his family with the knowledge that after the recent years of
Infirmity, quiet suffering and pain he is now at peace.
Lord, hear us.
Lord, thank you for the gift of family, nurses, carers and visitors in supporting
and befriending Thomas, the one who cared for and loved so many people
with such generosity of spirit during his life. In the midst of so much busyness in
life help us to remember that it is in giving of ourselves that we receive.
Lord, hear us.
Lord, may we learn from Thomas’s quiet and little ways to treasure family and friends, and to give gladly of our time and energy for the well being of our local community or parish.
Lord, hear us.
Lord, we pray for courage and strength to face tomorrow confidently and trustfully, and to know that you are always with us.
Lord, hear us.
We remember with great fondness those who have graced our lives and have
gone before us in death. We remember Gracie, Nellie, Paddy, Thomas’ parents,
brothers, sisters, and many friends. Bring them together in your heavenly home.
Lord, hear us
We unite our prayer with that of Mary, our Mother: Hail Mary…
CELEBRANT: Lord, may you support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen and the evening falls, and the busy world is hushed and the fever of life is over, and our work is done; then in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last. We ask this through Christ our Lord.