HOMILY BY MONSIGNOR JOSEPH McGUINNESS, DIOCESAN ADMINISTRATOR, TO MARK THE 150th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEDICATION OF ST PATRICK’S CHURCH, ORAM, (Parish of Muckno), CO MONAGHAN
The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
9 November 2018
It is most appropriate that we have gathered to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the dedication of this Church of St Patrick and All Saints on the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. The great basilica of St John Lateran is the cathedral church of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, and is traditionally considered to be the mother church of all of our churches throughout the world. St Patrick’s in Oram may not aspire to the grandeur of a basilica or cathedral, but it is no less sacred and holy a place of worship. This church has been hallowed by history, made holy by the prayer and worship of the Christian community which has existed here from time immemorial.
There is evidence that a Christian place of worship existed here from the time of St Patrick. Recent research by our retired bishop, Bishop Duffy, indicates that local placenames suggest association with our patron saint and that the influence of St Colmcille, our secondary patron, is to be found in the establishment of the monastic settlement locally at Mullandoy by St Maeldoid. With such a rich history, we can truly say that this church is built on what has been for centuries sacred ground.
The latter part of the 19th century was a time of great activity in the building of churches in our diocese. When Bishop Donnelly came to Oram in 1868 to dedicate this church, he had
dedicated several other churches in the previous months and the building of the cathedral in Monaghan was well underway. Bishop Donnelly kept a diary of all his engagements and he notes the celebrations that took place here at the dedication in November 1868. The dedication followed the usual pattern of the time: the Rite of Dedication of the Church, then the consecration of the graveyard followed by Pontifical High Mass, the highlight of which was the sermon, delivered on this occasion by Fr Fortesque, a Jesuit. Most importantly, the sermon was followed by a collection. Bishop Donnelly notes in his diary: “…sermon by Fortesque, good; Bp gave £7 to collection; amounted to £60…” The Bishop then retired in the evening for a slap-up dinner in the priests’ house which involved much merriment and the singing of songs, including by the bishop himself. Not for the first time was the church at Oram associated with music and singing!
In the 150 years since, St Patrick’s has been the setting for occasions both joyful and sorrowful, from weddings and baptisms to funerals and burials, but the constant has been the living faith, prayer and worship of this community. We treasure our churches, but we are always conscious that, more important than these buildings are the people who gather to pray in them. St Paul talks of the People of God as being living stones which build a spiritual house, or as the parts of a body with Christ as the head. We’re reminded of this by the Gospel reading of our Mass this evening, when the Temple of Jerusalem is contrasted with Jesus’ own body, the things that pass with the things that are eternal. The people in the Gospel could not have envisaged the disappearance of their magnificent Temple, and yet within a few decades of the life of Jesus it was utterly destroyed, and hardly a trace remained. But the Body of Christ has endured and here we are, parts of that body, worshipping in this more humble Temple with thanksgiving in our hearts.
Who knows what the future will bring? We live in uncertain times – uncertain politically for this border community in the face of Brexit; uncertain too for our church with the many challenges we face. Keeping our churches alive as places of prayer and worship will become more and more a mission of the laity, as the number of priests continues to diminish. But we will not cease to pray that more will find it in their hearts to respond to God’s call to priesthood, and that we will all, priests and laity, face the challenge of Christian mission with great hope and joyful enthusiasm.
In the grounds of this church is a lovely grotto, created in no small measure due to the enthusiasm of the late Rose McBride and other parishioners. It is a focus of devotion to Mary, the mother who embraced in joy her new-born Son, and who tended in sorrow to his crucified body. May her prayer be with us in our time, whether in the celebration of joy or the healing of wounds. This evening we do celebrate in joy and gratitude. We give thanks for the past generations who created this place of worship. We are conscious of the various works and improvements that were accomplished in the past and those which will be ongoing in the present. We accept from our forebears the stewardship of this place, committing ourselves and this community to continue to treasure and protect it.
This is a vibrant community, with good relationships between all Christian believers and strong bonds of support. It is a model of what the Body of Christ, the Church should be: all the many parts contributing to the vitality of the whole. May the power of God’s Spirit continue to work in the lives of the faithful of Oram, and may the worship and praise offered in this church be reflected in a community united in faith, strengthened in hope and fervent in Christian love.
1. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Clogher encompasses all of Co Monaghan, most of Fermanagh and portions of Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. It has a Catholic population of 88,000, across 37 parishes, which are served by 58 priests and 2 deacons. There are 85 churches in the diocese.
2. Monsignor Joseph McGuinness is the Diocesan Administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clogher, pending the appointment of a new bishop by Pope Francis. He is also the Administrator of the Parish of Tyholland, Co Monaghan.
3. St Patrick’s Church, Oram was dedicated to the service of God on Sunday 1 November 1868 by the then Bishop of Clogher, Most Reverend James Donnelly. It followed extensive work to the church, including the building of an extension. The Parish Priest of Muckno at the time was Canon Peter Birmingham. He was subsequently PP of Enniskillen and then of Carrickmacross, where he died in 1907. There is evidence of a church settlement in Oram since the time of St Patrick.
4. The Parish of Muckno encompasses the town of Castleblayney together with its rural hinterland and the Oram and Mullyash areas. The parish has a Catholic population of approximately 4,700.