Golden Jubilee Mass
St. Mary’s College
21 June 2011
My dear friends,
Charles Plumb was a U.S. jet fighter pilot during the war in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb himself ejected and parachuted into enemy territory. He was captured and spent the next six years in a Communist prison. He survived that ordeal and now lectures about the lessons he learned from the experience.
One day, he and his wife were in a restaurant having a meal. A man got up from another table, came over to him and said “You’re Plumb! You flew jet flights in Vietnam from the carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down! “How did you know that?” asked Plumb. “I was the one who packed your parachute” the man replied. He then smiled and said “I guess it worked.” Plumb assured him “if your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Plumb couldn’t sleep that night thinking about the man who had packed his parachute. He wondered how many times he might have passed him on the Kitty Hawk without saying hello, good morning or how are you. Fighter pilots are not always courteous or respectful to sailors. Plumb thought of the many hours this sailor may have spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of the chute holding in his hands the lifeline, the fate of someone he may not have known.
We all have people who provide what we need to make it through each phase of our lives. Plumb tells this story now to those to whom he lectures, reminding them of the importance of recognising and showing our appreciation to those people who may pack the many parachutes of all kinds we need every day; those people, often unseen in the background, are the wind beneath our wings.
My dear pupils, and indeed teachers, it is very much to your credit, and I compliment you all on it, that you prepared a Mass of thanksgiving for the Golden Jubilee of your school, as you signposted in your words of introduction (when you recalled the great sacrifices and efforts of the parishioners of Devenish, Culmáine, and Kilskeery in providing this school for the young people of the area); and you also showed your appreciation to the many deserving people you included in the Prayers of the Faithful.
You chose a most suitable First Reading for your Mass from the Book of Wisdom. “Your education is your life – guard it well.” What a lovely last line! It reminds us that knowledge is power and that you owe a great debt of gratitude to your teachers and parents for the life skills and the heritage of understanding they have passed on to you. It is knowledge and understanding which will enable you to use your talents and skills in enriching your own lives and the lives of others.
The Gospel reading that you chose urged you to let your light shine before others and St. Paul in the second reading asked that “Christ’s message in all it richness – live in your hearts.” In her well chosen words of welcome and Presentation of Symbols, your School Principal reminded us that it was the wish of our founders that every pupil would be enriched by their faith in Christ and grow into strong confident young adults.
This is the gift that crowns and unites all that has been given to you. We have all been baptised into the Christian Faith. We believe that God has gifted us life and a beautiful and bountiful universe for our use. He has graced us by sending his Son to live among us and teach us the meaning of life as well as showing us the way to live it. We believe that God is always present and with us in the Holy Spirit to guide us through life and through death to what he has prepared for us beyond.
This is the ultimate gift – the gift of God Himself, which is remembered and expressed in the Mass we are celebrating. “You must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And to all these qualities add love which binds all things together in perfect unity.” This is how the second reading, which you chose, put it.
My dear pupils of St. Mary’s College Irvinestown, I am delighted to be able to join you this morning in celebrating the Golden Jubilee of your school, in recognising the great work of those who founded this college and those who enabled it to flourish over these fifty years. It gives me great joy to join with you in thanking and complimenting your teachers, parents and priests for the generosity of their care in watching over your growth and development to this point in your lives. I pray that God will continue to bless each one of you and guide you through the challenges of your life journey. May God’s Word nourish your hearts and minds in such a way that this college, as well as your homes and communities, will be places where you can live and work in peace and harmony and be at one with yourselves, with each other and with your Father in heaven.