Bishop Duffy anoints the new altar in St Mary's Church, Castleblayney on Sunday 8 December 2019. Photo courtesy of Glenn Murphy Photography

The following is the text of the homily given by Bishop Duffy at in St Mary’s Church, Castleblayney on Sunday 8 December 2019, during which the church was re-dedicated to the worship and service of God.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,

This is a beautiful church, a building with a long history. It was first built soon after the famine, work started in the mid-1850s and it was dedicated on 5 November 1861. The preacher on that day was Dr Patrick Dorrian, the Coadjutor Bishop of Down and Connor. In his book, On the Way: The Journey of the People of Muckno, Gary Carville recalls that Bishop Dorrian ‘mounted the pulpit and preached for over an hour.’ I intend to go a little less than that today?

The church was extended in the 1950s and the extension was blessed by Bishop Eugene O’Callaghan in May 1857. The preacher that day was Dr Dan Duffy, a priest born in this parish. He reminded the congregation that day that Mary was the patron of this beautiful church and he encouraged all present to ‘follow Mary and you will not go astray.’ He continued: ‘Let Mary, patron of our church, be patron of our homes and our hearts.’ This is surely a message worth hearing again today.

In September last I was in Rome to attend a formation course for newly-appointed bishops and, like so many others, I visited some very fine churches. If you are interested in architecture or art then Rome is the place to be. It’s a goldmine of beauty, so much of it captured on people’s phones and cameras nowadays. The Sunday after I returned from Rome, I celebrated Mass in the beautiful little church in Ardaghey. There I experienced something different but equally beautiful. I saw and was part of community in action. After Mass, no one seemed to rush away home. People were delighted to meet each other, to chat and to meet neighbours and friends. The greetings afterwards lasted nearly as long as the Mass. Here was the joy of faith being lived out in community. Our Church is a community, it is about the celebration of faith and its living out in family and the wider world.

This building of St Mary’s in Castleblayney is filled with memories and stories. Here is the place where many, surrounded by loved ones, were baptised, confirmed and married. Here is the place where people prayerfully handed back to God their loved ones. Here is the sacred space where people still come quietly to seek God’s help, healing and guidance. Here is the sacred space where the People of God gather each week to give thanks and praise to God and to seek his continued help. As the entrance hymn today told us – it is a place of welcome, ‘All are welcome in this place’. It is a place that is open to all.

Today, our hearts are filled with gratitude and joy as we re-dedicate this church following the recent renovations and re-ordering. On your behalf I thank Canon Pat McHugh and his team, led by Declan McAteer, for all their planning and hard work. We thank the architect, Karl Pederson and the main contractor, McGuigan Builders – you can all take a bow for this splendid and beautiful work.

We remember with gratitude Rev Neal Phair and the Church of Ireland community for their welcome and support to this community while the work here was ongoing.

The very generous support of so many has lightened the heavy burden on Canon Shane McCaughey your current Parish Priest, and on Fr Stephen Duffy and the recently-arrived Fr Nicholas Maanzo. I thank you for it and I encourage you to keep up that support to the priests of the parish.

A final thought – it is said that wherever Mass is celebrated is like a little bit of Galilee where Jesus walks among his people. Eucharist is at the centre of our faith. It is Jesus’ parting gift, where heaven and earth meet. Jesus nourishes us in the Eucharist and offers to accompany us on the journey of life.

My prayer for you and all who gather here in this church is aptly caught in a verse of Bernadette Farrell’s beautiful hymn:

Christ be our light.

Shine in our hearts,

Shine through the darkness.

Christ be our light.

Shine in your Church, gathered today.