On the evening of Friday 16 September 2016 Fr John Flanagan was inducted and installed as Parish Priest of the North-Monaghan parish of Errigal Truagh in a very moving Eucharistic liturgy at the Church of the Holy Family, Ballyoisin, presided over by the Bishop of Clogher, Most Rev Liam MacDaid. Bishop MacDaid and Fr Flanagan were joined by Canon Macartan McQuaid, a native of the parish, and Fr Hubert Martin PP, Donagh. The large congregation which filled the church included parishioners and visitors – including members of Fr Flanagan’s family. They all took part actively in the liturgical celebration which included very appropriate music. Bishop MacDaid spoke of the necessity for people to challenge their habits and to take risks, to uproot and move on. He paid tribute to the retired PP of Errigal Truagh, Fr Sean Nolan, now PE in Donaghmoyne, as well as extolling the record and abilities of the new PP, Fr Flanagan.
The Rite of Induction took place following the Gospel and homily. The Bishop read the formal appointment of Fr Flanagan, following which the Parish Priest-elect publicly made the Profession of Faith. He was then formally installed as PP and given a copy of the Lectionary containing the readings from the Word of God and a set of keys to symbolise both his mandate to preach the Gospel to his parishioners and his responsibilities to lead the People of God in that place. This was followed by the exchange of a sign of peace and a warm acknowledgment from all those present.
Fr John Flanagan is a native of Annyalla and was ordained a priest in June 1988. Since then he has served in a number of parishes including Clones (Aghdrumsee), Castleblayney and, most recently, Roslea. Since 2000 he has been the Diocesan Advisor for Religious Education, a post he continues to hold. He has recently completed 16 years of helping to lead the one-day retreats on Lough Derg. Fr Flanagan is author of the very popular book A Healing Word: A Reflective Journey towards Inner Peace, as well as another work on catechetical homilies for young people. Within the GAA, Fr John has played at all levels with his home club Cremartin.
Bishop MacDaid’s Homily:
Bishop MacDaid began his homily with a reflection on a poem by the Spanish poet Pablo Neruda.
‘I want to share with you some thoughts which might be particularly appropriate for the occasion. These thoughts were brought on by a poem written by the Spanish born poet Pablo Neruda. He says,
“He or she who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the colour of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience, dies slowly.”
‘I was invited out recently and reluctantly accepted. I did not relish the journey. I groaned internally. But it turned out to be a lovely evening. The temptation was to settle in the comfort of the fire, not to risk having my feathers ruffled. Not to disturb myself.
‘But this occasion came to life straight away. I was so glad I made the right decision. I did not want to leave. I had not noticed the passing of time. The glowing coals had turned to embers. I now had a choice to make. Do I sit on at these embers and try to hold on to the sparkle they once held or do I bring their spark to a place I had not visited. I think of Abraham and Sarah, Ruth and Naomi, Mary and Joseph, Peter and James. They each put their trust in the God of their journeys and each became more than they could ever ask or imagine.
‘Back to the poet Pablo Neruda, he says,
“He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work, who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives, die slowly.”
‘Abraham thought he had completed his life’s mission. He put down his tent pegs and settled in the city of Ur with his wife and entourage. Before he had time to sit down he was asked to get up and go. Whether we think of Jeremiah, Elijah, Mary, Elizabeth or Martha each of them shared something of that unchosen journey of moving out of their comfort zone. Something caught their attention and each noticed, heard, tried to ignore, wrestled with and responded to the persistent calling that brought them forth. They were rescued from spending their lives complaining of their own bad luck, about the rain that never stops. Their responses made a huge difference not only to themselves but to their community and beyond.
‘Neruda, the Spanish born poet reminds us that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simplest act of breathing.
“A boat is safe in the harbour;
But this is not the purpose of a boat.” (Paulo Coelho)’
Bishop MacDaid then continued:
‘Parishioners of Errigal Truagh,
‘I know that as you listened to the reflection put before you this evening, you were thinking of priests like Fr Nolan and Fr Flanagan who have been asked to uproot and to move at this time. Fr Nolan leaves after 26 years of service in this parish. I was very glad to see that you acknowledged this appropriately before his departure. Fr Nolan was not a person to go to if you were hoping for a less than deserved clap on the back. He was more likely to ask you a few difficult questions. You might even merit a kick on the shins. To his credit, he gave the same treatment to Bishops and, at times, even took pleasure in it. This was one of his ways of showing his care for the people of North Monaghan. He gave his life generously to this cause, to improving the quality of life, as he saw it, for the people of North Monaghan. He was limitless in giving of himself and of his time and energy to this task. For the past thirteen years he had to do his work hindered by the effects of a stroke. This he did without looking for sympathy or notice. Those who knew him well would have been loyal admirers, those who did not know him so well would probably have shaken their heads in wonderment. Like Christ himself he drew from his hearers both hostility and admiration. I would like to join with you in offering him my gratitude and respect for his work in this parish.
‘This evening I bring you a new Parish Priest. A native of County Monaghan he is used to the rigors and bruises that go with Monaghan football but if you call to see him you won’t need your shin guards. He is gentle and sensitive. Teachers in Primary School will know him for his good advisory work there. For the past thirteen years he has been a near neighbour of yours, and a peaceful one. It was a difficult period in the life of the parish of Roslea. The people there will forever be grateful to him for the way in which he shepherded them through difficult times, always looking out for the lame and the wounded. He was an anchor to them, and he will be for you too if you allow him. I hand him over to you to look after him. If you don’t, I have no worries. There will be a queue of parishes from here to the Atlantic waiting to welcome him. But I know you will take to him and look after him. I know you will come to love him and to co-operate fully with him in seeking to work out what is best for the people of the parish. That as you know, can be difficult but if you approach the task in an unselfish spirit, God will lead you there.’
+Liam S. MacDaid
Church of the Holy Family, Ballyoisin, Errigal Truagh
16 September 2016