Fr Damian Bresnahan SMA preached the homily at the Concelebrated Requiem Mass for Fr Hugh McLaughlin which took place at St Joseph’s SMA Church, Wilton on Wednesday, 15 May 2013.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-7,11 2 Corinthians 4:14 – 5:1 Matthew 5:1 – 12a
“A few weeks ago in the library in our SMA House at Blackrock Road one of the priests, Fr Con O’Leary, said to me ‘you know Damian I have come to appreciate more and more that the two things most important in life are ‘’to say your prayers and to be nice to people’’ ‘.
We have gathered here today to celebrate and give thanks for the life of Fr Hugh McLaughlin who tried his best to do these two things and we have gathered to pray him home to the God he journeyed with in faith.
For every child born in to our world there is a story of joy and excitement surrounding the experience of the first breath of new life – so too there is awe and wonder in the experience surrounding a person’s last breath.
We are reminded in today’s first reading from Ecclesiastes (3:1-7, 11) that there is a time for everything, a time for every purpose under heaven. Hugh McLaughlin’s time for death seemed to come rather unexpectedly – on Friday 10th as he celebrated his 82nd birthday it was probably the last thought in anyone’s mind – quite a sobering thought really and a reminder to us all that we never know the time that God will call us home to Himself and so we are invited to be ready – ‘to say our prayers and be nice to people at all times’.
The Psalmist reminds us that ‘the love of the Lord is everlasting’. Our journey of faith is to grow in the awareness of that love that God has for each one of us – to nourish ourselves but also so that we have plenty to share with the people we meet on the road of life – which is really the core of the call to mission.
For Hugh McLaughlin – coming in touch with God’s love was made easier because he was surrounded by love and a living faith in his family home at Barrington’s Avenue – with his father and mother (Charles and Mary) and his younger sister Mary and brother Arthur – he grew up in a happy home where love and life and prayer went hand-in-hand. Of course living in the shadows of the OLA Sisters in Ardfoyle and the African Missions further up the Blackrock Road it was probably hard enough for a young fella not to be involved in Church activities and the active practice of the faith.
It was nice last night at the Removal to see so many fellow altar servers who had served Mass with Hugh as boys at the SMA Church, Blackrock Road many years ago.
The secure and happy environment of Hugh’s early years all helped to form a good self-image – in many ways he was ‘special’ and had a lasting sense of that throughout his life – even after his parents death Mary and Arthur continued to nurture that special family bond – in fact last Thursday when the three of you were out for lunch little did you think it was your last outing together – you last meal as a family.
In today’s world and in religious congregations we talk about giving time and attention for wellness and well-being – Hugh’s good self-image made it easier for him to allow his person to be nourished and cared for in love.
Hugh was a happy man – he was happy with his life as a member of the Society of African Missions and he was happy wherever he served on mission.
His arrival in Nigeria, West Africa coincided with a time of great development in education and so it was somewhat inevitable that a lot of his missionary life would be spent teaching and in the field of education. His mission appointments brought him to Annunciation College, Ikere-Ekiti where he would have taught with another Cork City man Fr Sean MacCarthy, Stella-Maris College, Okitipupa, St Patrick’s Secondary School, Oka, Sacred Heart Seminary, Akure – later when he went full time in to pastoral work he ministered at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Akure and then at St. Matthew’s Parish in Ondo Town. All his thirty-one years in Nigeria were spent in the diocese of Ondo.
During his time on mission in Nigeria, Hugh was known to be very conscientious and very hard working. As a highly organized person he always applied himself to any task on hand and carried things out with great efficiency. As a teacher and principal he was approachable and understanding to teachers and students alike and as a SMA confrere he was kind, generous and humorous.
Some would describe Hugh, or Lockie as he was affectionately known, as a character. Lockie had a way of saying things that people remembered – like at breakfast this morning I heard someone remember how he used to talk of porridge as a great start to the day but that about 11.00am it would let you down with a bang. And of course his infectious, hearty laugh was enjoyed by all.
Wherever Hugh lived or worked he endeared himself to people. It continued when he came to Cork diocese – to Passage, Ballydehob and Goleen and then to retire in the SMA Community, Blackrock road. His positive and happy disposition made it easy to be with him and then his gracious and appreciative nature enabled him to both reach out to people and also to receive from people.
In the Yoruba language from Nigeria – people would say he liked a bit of ‘Fari’ – which meant he liked a bit of attention – that readiness to celebrate life and show forth the positive side. So often we stay with the negative but Fr Hugh had no problem letting the positive aspects of his life be seen in a simple almost child-like way. It was acknowledged when he was honoured with three Chieftaincy titles by the Obas (Kings) of Ondo and Akureland for his contribution to the socio-educational development of the area where he worked. His nature attracted the little bit of attention and public acknowledgement. I suppose we all like a bit of acknowledgement in one way or another. Here in Cork over the last few years of retirement a group of 12 – 15 women would travel from Goleen to Blackrock Road to celebrate Christmas with Fr Hugh and they’d bring with them all that was needed for the party. It was a great tribute to the esteem they held Fr Hugh in and I know that many are here today from Goleen and Ballydehob and Passage.
Hugh always liked the sunshine – the only request he made when he retired to SMA House, Blackrock road was to have a room with sunshine – it didn’t matter that it was the smallest room in the house. Probably because he took in the sunshine he had plenty of sunshine to share with others.
The second reading of scripture from Paul to the Corinthians (4:14-5:1) speaks ‘our outer body may be falling into decay, the inner person is renewed day by day’. Hugh lived life to the full – we may all know some people who die at 60 and aren’t buried until they’re 80 but not Hugh McLaughlin – he lived life to the very end. Day by day his person was renewed in faith and in love. Hugh was so faithful to his prayer life and then he was never adverse to a bit of female attention – he always had a Mary in his life to care for him whether it was the women of Ballydehob or Goleen, or the nurses and carers of SMA House, Blackrock Road and of course his mother was called Mary and his sister Mary – how appropriate then for him to bow out on a Feast of Mary – Our Lady of Fatima.
There might have been disappointment that Fr Hugh did not make the Diamond Jubilee of his ordination to priesthood in the SMA next year with his classmates (some who are here today: Michael Evans, Frank Meehan, John Clancy and Paddy McGovern) but his journey in faith continues with God in heaven – no doubt when his classmates are celebrating in Wilton or Blackrock Road Hugh will be celebrating in heaven with his father and mother, with Arthur’s wife Peggy and with all those whose paths he crossed and shared life with and blessed.
May he rest in peace.”
After the Mass, Fr Hugh was laid to rest in the adjoining SMA community cemetery with his sister Mary, brother Arthur, other family and relatives and a large gathering of SMA and diocesan priests, led by Bishop John Buckley of Cork & Ross.