Golden Jubilee of the Church of the Assumption

Homily by Fr. Pat Ahern, September 30th, 2006

I’m wondering how many of you here this evening were here on August 26th 1956, when this church was opened and blessed by the late Bishop Denis Moynihan. I suspect not all that many. Fifty years is a long time. Half a century. Many, many changes. Many people no longer with us.

I was still a student at the time – in Maynooth. A year later I said my first Mass here, said it in Latin with my back to the people; for that was the way Mass was said here during the first seven or eight years of the life of this Church.

I remember the opening day well. I remember coming to the village the evening before – came in for choir practice with the local choir. The whole village was alive with activity, last minute preparations. People painting, cleaning windows, people on ladders putting up bunting, hanging flags on telegraph poles. One sensed an air of great expectation and excitement.

I have a memory of the Mass next day, of the then P.P. Fr. Danny O’Sullivan, who was then in failing health. He was in a wheelchair seated here in the Sanctuary. And a proud man he was. His dream was now a reality.

Apparently he hadn’t seen the church until it was finished. When he was wheeled in here a few days before the opening, word is that he was dumbfounded – speechless. He had no idea the Church would be so high and so spacious. At a reception for guests after the opening Mass he made a speech, during which he said “Exegi monumentum aëre perennius” “I have raised up a monument more lasting than bronze” He liked to draw attention to certain features of the Church. One was the rose window at the back. That was a great curiosity; no one had ever seen a rose window in these parts before. Another feature was the spire – which people at the time were disappointed in, far too small, it was felt, out of proportion, considering the great height and bulk of the building. But of course it wasn’t a spire at all! – as Fr. Dan was at pains to point out. It was, he used to insist a fleche, FLÈCHE…French for an arrow. (so we mustn’t be calling it a spire!) Anyway the poor man didn’t enjoy his monument for very long, because he died just five weeks after the Church was opened. His Anniversary was last Thursday. We remember him fondly and pray for the repose of his soul.

Since his time, 9 Paris Priests in all have served in the parish.

  1. Fr. Willie Murphy                 1956-1957   an Uncle to our present Bishop.

  2. Fr. Pat Lynch                      1958-1961

  3. Fr. Edmond Fitzpatrick         1961-1964

  4. Fr. Denis Mangan                1964-1972

  5. Fr. Willie O’Brien                 1972-1980   all now deceased.

  6. Fr. Michael O’Leary              1980-1998   the longest serving P.P. of them all.

  7. Fr.  Joe Nolan                     1998-2001

  8. Fr. Michael Fleming             2001-2003

  9. Fr. John Lucid                     2003- present

Fr. John is to be warmly complimented this evening on the wonderful refurbishment job he has done. I have never seen the Church looking more splendid. This evening is an occasion  to pay tribute to all who had a part in the provision of this lovely Church. It took a bit of vision and courage to face such a project in the times that were in it. Meagre times! And by to-day’s standards impoverished times, even. Building the Church, then, called for the biggest fund raising drive that was ever known in the Parish, before or since, spearheaded by that wonderfully energetic curate, Fr. Jim Galvin. Concerts were organized. Plays were produced and taken on tour all over North Kerry. A Pantomime was put on in the Marian Hall at Christmas. A Troupe of Carol Singers sang their way round neighbouring towns and villages. A bazaar was held down in the old church, with a wheel of fortune set up there offering such attractive prizes as a bicycle, a sack of flour etc. Bands of ticket sellers headed off in all directions, to wherever crowds of people were gathered, the Races, the Munster Final, Puck Fair and places as far away as Galway and Wexford, a huge effort to raise the €60,000 which was what this Church cost at the time.

In celebrating this Golden Jubilee we are celebrating fifty years of parish life as it has been lived by Moyvane people. We are united in spirit with all who worshipped here and are no longer with us, united in spirit with the past generations, who worshipped down in the old church, at the other end of the village, and with the generations who worshipped in the older church, which stood on the same site, back through the generations, to all who worshipped in the older church still, now in ruins, in Murhur graveyard. The journey of Faith that these generations have made, through the centuries, and which has brought them to their eternal reward, goes on for you now in this place.

The first person to be baptised here, two days after opening, was Thomas O’Connor, now living in the Glin Road. The first of many hundreds, thousands maybe?, who were “Christened” at this baptismal font, stamped with their Christian identity, initiated into the Christian community that is this parish. It is in the individual parish, at local level, that the universal Church of Christ finds it’s most visible and tangible expression. A parish is not principally a territory, or a structure, or a building, but rather ‘The Family of God’ living out it’s Christian Faith from generation to generation. And the Parish Church is the focal point of that living out. Teach Dé. The meeting place between God and his assembled family, what the late Pope John XXIII was fond of calling the “Village Fountain”, to which all would have recourse in their thirst, their thirst/need for God. Here, God willing, you and future generations of Moyvane people will continue to celebrate, not only the high points of your Christian lives (Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, Weddings, Funerals) but here too, week after week, you will continue to answer the call of the parish bell to come here to be spiritually renewed and nourished by The Word of God and by The Eucharist.

Our celebration this evening is not only for those who can remember back over 50 years. More importantly, we are celebrating with and for the young people among us. Our faith and trust is now in you, because the future is yours. In coming years you will be the parents and grandparents of future generations still of Moyvane people who will come to worship here. You are the heirs to the treasure – that is our Faith. You are inheriting a great tradition. Tradition has always been important to Moyvane people – be it in football, or drama, or dance. Value above all the tradition to which this fine Church is a fitting monument – the Faith of your fathers and mothers through the ages.

And don’t forget the one to whom this church is dedicated. “The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary” So Mary is your Patron. She is, in a special way, the Mother of your parish. And if there is one thing Mary teaches us it is to appreciate and value God’s goodness and God’s gift and to give thanks. Mary’s whole spirit was one of thanks – from the day when as a teenager of sixteen years, she spoke her “Magnificat”, on her first visit to her cousin Elizabeth. We might well make her prayer our prayer of thanks on this Jubilee evening:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
For the Almighty has done great things for me”
God has done “great things” for this parish, and he will do great things yet, through your courage and loyalty and perseverance and with Mary’s help.

So my prayer for you all this evening is: “May your church continue in the coming decades to be what it has been in the past 50 years. A place where God lives among his beloved people, where people of faith come to receive grace and strength, where sinners are pardoned, where God’s word is preached and all are built up in faith and love to be a living temple to the honour and glory of God.   AMEN