On Saturday 17 September, in St Macartan’s Church, Trillick, Co Tyrone, during the Vigil Mass for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Fr Padraig McKenna was inducted and installed by Bishop Liam MacDaid as Parish Priest of Kilskeery (Tillick and Coa) – a parish that straddles the border of counties Tyrone and Fermanagh. Bishop Liam and Fr McKenna were joined by Canon John McKenna, the now retired Parish Priest (PE) of Kilskeery and Canon Shane McCaughey, St Macartan’s College and Aughnamullen East parish (a native of Trillick). Fr Raymond Donnelly, Enniskillen, was Master of Ceremonies. Ministers of the Word and Ministers of the Eucharist from the parish participated in the liturgy. The splendid liturgical music for the occasion was led by the Trillick Parish Choir under the direction of Ronan Warnock and the Trillick Children’s Choir under the direction of Fiona Donnelly.
In accordance with liturgical practice, the new Parish Priest was inducted and installed following the proclamation of the Gospel and the homily. The bishop informed him of his responsibilities and duties. This was followed by Fr Padraig making the Profession of Faith ‘with a full and strong faith’. He was then canonically installed into the parish, following which he was presented with a Lectionary containing readings from the Word of God and a set of keys, symbolising his mandate to preach the Gospel and his duty to build up the People of God through governance, leadership and collaboration.
Fr Padraig McKenna:
Fr McKenna is a native of Tyholland parish, Co Monaghan, and was ordained a priest in 1987. Since then he has served in a number of parishes around the diocese, in addition to periods of teaching in St Macartan’s College, Monaghan and the now former Vocational School in Clones. His service in parish ministry has included Clones, Belcoo, the Cathedral parish of Monaghan & Rackwallace and, most recently, nine years in Carrickmacross. During his time in Carrickmacross he wrote and published a series of reflections on the Stations of the Cross by the renowned Irish artist Richard King which have adorned St Joseph’s Church there since 1951. This book was revised and reprinted recently to mark the 150th anniversary of St Joseph’s (1866-2016). Fr Padraig was the co-ordinator of the entire celebrations in Carrickmacross parish to mark the 150th anniversary.
Bishop Liam’s Homily:
Once again, Bishop Liam opened his homily with a reflection on a poem by the Spanish poet Pablo Neruda on the challenges facing us when we are called on to uproot, to break out of our routine and put our faith in God’s Providence:
‘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 Liam then continued: –
‘Parishioners of Kilskeery,
‘These days, have been most eventful for you, days of joy mixed with days of sorrow, and I’m sure your thoughts were in overdrive as you listened to that reflection and pondered on the comings and goings of priests over the past few years. Nineteen years ago, when he retired as Parish priest of Tempo, you welcomed the late Canon Tom Marron to Trillick. He served you for as long as he could. When he was no longer able to do so, you did not abandon him. It is to the eternal credit of your parish priest, Canon John, his faithful carer Bernie Fee as well as Isobel and Margaret, and indeed the entire parish community that you catered for his needs in a most inclusive and sensitive way. I would like to put on record our admiration of and our gratitude for the Christ-like spirit in which he was cared for. May he rest in peace.
‘Tonight marks a transition for the parish. I recall five years ago Canon John celebrating the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood. I can recall a function in the Manor House which surpassed the glitz of a new car launch. To a fanfare of trumpets a sparkling new car was unveiled and presented to Canon John. I presume he was given the car with the intention of using it, going here and there, giving the people of the parish a bit of a break. They got more than a bit of a shock to discover that the sparkling new car was a one way wonder. When you turned on the engine, it would only move in one direction and that was towards Trillick. If you wanted to go to Kilskeery you had to reverse the whole way!! To be serious for a moment, I realise the people of Trillick think more highly of Canon John than of the recently-canonised Saint Mother Teresa. I was told they would crater the roads if they heard even a whisper that he was in danger of being moved.
‘Their love for him is justified. I take this opportunity to publicly thank Canon John for his outstanding service here in this parish. His legacy is immense – this outstanding new church dedicated to St Macartan, the new priests’ house and the great improvements at the cemetery, together with all of the other initiatives. Above all, his care of you, the people of Kilskeery, especially the old and the sick. Thank you Canon John!
‘In fact, there is a bonus. Canon John needs time to rest his bones so we have brought in a new man – another McKenna from County Monaghan to do the work. He knows he has a hard act to follow but he is up to it. He always treats people with courtesy and is most helpful to the needy. He has a great interest in heritage, in local history and has very good taste in anything he takes on to do, whether it be in print or otherwise. I have no doubt that he will be as happy to be here as you will be to have him.
‘There is just one other little footnote. Giving the shortage of priests we expect to call on Trillick to help out when needed elsewhere. Nobody will be moving out. It will most likely be support from time to time when needed and given your care of Canon Tom Marron, as a community you are fortunate in having a special care for those more needy than ourselves. Details have to be worked out but there is no need for any anxiety. You will receive excellent care from your two shepherds and we will give you details when things have been worked out.
‘How could it be otherwise? Our Gospel reading this evening which we have just heard (Luke 16: 1-13) tells us that we cannot be slaves of both God and money – we cannot simply enjoy comforts if our neighbours have nothing. I know that you will respond generously, as you have always done.
+Liam S. MacDaid
St Macartan’s Church, Trillick, Co Tyrone
17 September 2016