On Saturday 24 June 2017, the Vigil Mass of the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time in St Tierney’s Church, Roslea, Co Fermanagh, was celebrated as a Mass of Thanksgiving to honour the contribution of St Eugene’s College, Roslea, from its foundation in 1968 until the present. For almost fifty years, St Eugene’s has played a major part in the life of the people of south-east Fermanagh and has helped to shape the educational, personal, cultural and community experiences of many people. From September next it was become part of the new St Kevin’s College in Lisnaskea.
The chief celebrant of the Mass was Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Clogher. He was joined by the priests of the parish and other priests, some of whom are past pupils of St Eugene’s.
The following is Monsignor McGuinness’ homily:
My dear friends, it is a pleasure to be part of this evening’s celebration in Roslea, and a privilege to be invited to lead this Mass of Thanksgiving for the enormous contribution which St Eugene’s College has made to the education and formation of young people, not only from this parish, but from the whole area of South East Fermanagh.
Every Mass is a great act of thanksgiving – each time we celebrate the Eucharist we express heartfelt gratitude and praise to God for the blessings we have received from Him, and especially the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. We bring to our celebration the gifts that we have received, each one of us as individuals, in our own lives – gifts of health and happiness, of forgiveness and mercy, of life and love. And we also come as a community of faith, thankful for what we have been granted as a people in community with one another – gifts of caring and help, of harmony and unity, of togetherness and mutual support.
This evening we celebrate with special gratitude a great gift that has been bestowed on this community – the gift of St Eugene’s College. And as the Gospel instructs us, we don’t say this in whispers, we proclaim it from the house-tops.
This is a bittersweet occasion. As you know, I worked for a number of years in St Michael’s College as a teacher and Principal, so I am very much aware of how a good school can inspire loyalty and devotion, both within and without. I know the pride taken in the blossoming of pupils’ talents and the joy in their achievements. This is what a good school does. But in St Eugene’s we are not talking about a good school, we are talking about one of the best. And so, while the pride and the joy are all the greater, the sense of sadness at the end of an era is all the more acute.
A school is not simply a set of buildings – it is a living, breathing organism, a vibrant community of people imbued with a spirit and ethos which always looks upwards and outwards. Since its opening in 1968, St Eugene’s has been that kind of community, but a community within a community, drawing life from the wider community and bringing life to it. The wider community has not just provided the pupils that have walked its corridors and filled its classrooms – it has provided the moral and material support which has been a major factor in the school’s success. In the early days it took a huge community effort to gather the resources needed to bring St Eugene’s into being. It is the wider community which completed the magic triangle of home, school and parish within which young people were enabled to realise their potential for growth as human beings.
Within the school community itself, St Eugene’s has been blessed by the quality of the Principals and Staff, both teaching and support, who have given the highest degree of dedication and professional expertise over the last 50 years. They have rightly earned the greatest respect and value in the eyes of pupils and parents, and even in the most uncertain of times, their commitment has never wavered. To all of them, we say a very sincere ‘thank you’, and we earnestly pray that the present staff will be able to face the future with hope and confidence.
It is a combination of the talent and devotion of the staff, the work ethic of the pupils and the support of the community which has been the key to the achievements of St Eugene’s over the years – not just in terms of examination results (which are impressive in themselves), or in the rich and varied extra-curricular and cultural life of the school, but first and foremost in the qualities of character and spirit which the school developed in the young people who passed through its doors. These things don’t happen by accident – they are all a product of the ethos which pervades the life and work of the school. In the case of St Eugene’s, this has been a Catholic ethos, carefully nurtured and protected, especially by the leadership and governance of the school. We are particularly grateful for all who gave so generously and voluntarily of their time and talents as Governors of the school, and guided it so successfully over the years.
‘Is é an páiste athair an fhir’ has been the motto of the College – ‘the child is father of the man’ – and the focus of the school on the growth of the pupils, physically, socially, academically and spiritually, has reflected this concern to prepare young people for lives which are enriched by qualities of integrity, compassion and respect. The result has been an enrichment of the communities in which the past pupils of St Eugene’s have lived and worked, and for that too, we give thanks.
This evening, many of you will relive memories of this great school – I hope they are happy ones. There will be some sadness for those pupils and staff who have since journeyed to God – may they find with him the reward of good labours and a happy and peaceful rest. May our thoughts of gratitude always remind us of the goodness of the Lord who says to us in the Gospel “you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows”.
When I spoke earlier this year at the launch of the new St Kevin’s College, which will now become the home of staff and pupils from this community, I reminded those present that St Kevin was a pupil of St Eugene. I have every confidence that the staff and pupils from St Eugene’s will have great gifts to bring to the new school and that the traditions and ethos of St Eugene’s will be a source of enrichment in the new school community.
We thank the Lord for our past blessings, ask for his help in our present time, and pray for his gift of hope in our future.