When Bishop Fintan first asked me to think about becoming Parish Priest of Ennis, my home parish, I was truly taken by surprise. Surprise, because it is not usual for a native son to return to his roots to begin again.
Having considered Bishop Fintan’s request, I have answered yes to this new call and a huge challenge. I have said yes with a heavy heart as I am reluctant to leave Shannon Parish where I have spent a total of twenty-six happy, fulfilling years.
The life of a priest, in my opinion, is all about trying to say yes. On the day of my ordination thirty four years ago I said a definite yes to the call of the priesthood and indeed I thank God that I have since answered yes to all my callings and to all the opportunities that have been offered to me.
Each calling has been unexpected and different in its own way. After ordination, I was asked to go to Derry. Not alone was this a major privilege, but it proved to be a wonderful beginning to my life as a priest.
In Derry, I was blessed. My time there was a most positive experience of priestly ministry. I am most grateful to the late Bishop Edward Daly of Derry and to the priests in St Eugene’s Cathedral with whom I lived and worked.
My second appointment was to the Parish of Kilmurry Ibrickane in 1987. This was a new beginning. Here I was introduced to rural life. I lived on my own for the first time.
As I now look back on those years, that opportunity was yet another blessing in my life. I am grateful to the late Fr. Tim Tuohy who taught me so much about the priesthood as a country curate.
Totally unexpectedly in 1992, I was asked to move to the Parish of Shannon. This, my third appointment also provided me with new opportunities and many, many blessings.
For ten years I lived in Aidan Park, sharing a home, life and ministry with the late Fr. Michael McNamara. Fr. Mickey, as he was affectionately known, was chaplain to St Patrick’s Comprehensive School until he moved to the Parish of Doora Barefield in 2001.
Fr. Mickey had great local knowledge of Shannon which he generously shared with me. He introduced me to all he knew. I was very lucky to be in his presence as he really loved and cherished the gift of priesthood and this was reflected in the respect shown to him by one and all in St Patrick’s Comprehensive School and in the parish where he celebrated daily Mass.
In 1992 I was asked by Bishop Willie Walsh to become Parish Priest of Shannon following in the footsteps of Canon Brendan who opted to become an assistant priest. This came as a huge surprise to me and it certainly was a major challenge. As a curate, one needs the support and affirmation of one’s Parish Priest but as Parish Priest, all responsibility rests in you.
As Bishop Kieran O’Reilly once said to me on a visit to the parish, “You are my delegate here and I have only one delegate in each parish”. That was and still is a profound statement.
The last sixteen years as Parish Priest of Shannon have been a great challenge and privilege. I was lucky in that I have always had the support of Canon Brendan O’Donoghue, who has taught me how to live as a priest in a parish. Canon Brendan believes in the benefits of hard work, prayer, daily Eucharist and the rest is safe in God’s hands.
Over the years I was fortunate in that I was able to work with colleagues who shared my vision and they also opened my eyes and mind to new possibilities.
Life in any parish could not happen without people. This has been my experience in Shannon for the past twenty-six years.
The Parish of Shannon is blessed to have committed people of all ages who are generous, willing and ready to help and support the priests in making the parish a place of welcome to all.
Shannon Parish is a place of prayer, where the vision of the Gospel is being put into action by the help of so many in various practical ways.
As I now prepare to begin again, I look back over the years with sincere gratitude in my heart.
First and foremost I thank God for all the blessings He has bestowed on me through contact with colleagues, parishioners, teachers, friends and neighbours. I humbly ask forgiveness for any hurt or offence I caused. Please accept that it was not intentional.
I wish my successor, Fr Arnold Rosney and Fr Francis Xavier every success in keeping the Gospel alive in Shannon.
Please pray for all priests who are taking up new appointments on 20th July. Change is not always easy, yet both priests and parishioners must remain open to new ways and possibilities. Hidden treasures may be revealed!