On Friday evening, 14 February 2020, the family of the late Fr Paddy (PJ) Kelly gathered in their home parish of Laurencetown, Ballinasloe, Co Galway to celebrate his Month’s Mind Mass, following his sudden death on 14 January last. Fr Paddy had in fact booked a Mass for 14 February to remember their mother, Eileen (née Lyons), whose first anniversary was on 11 February. Little did he know that this Mass would also be for him. But the sadness of the occasion was only added to by the fact that last Thursday, 13 February, the Kelly family buried their other brother, Denis who had died after a brief illness.
Fr Anthony Kelly SMA was the Chief celebrant at the Mass, assisted by Fr Declan McInerney, Parish Priest of Eyrecourt and Clonfert. Also concelebrating the Mass was Fr Joe Clarke (Clonfert diocese) and SMA Fathers James Clesham, Colman Nilan, Billy Sheridan and Martin Kavanagh. The family were joined by many neighbours and friends from the area and further afield. In the course of his homily, Fr Anthony reminded us that when Jesus met the disciples after his resurrection he told them “don’t be afraid”. When we lose a loved one it can cause us great pain and worry. But – as Christians – such pain and worry is tempered by our belief in the resurrection. When death takes a loved one – suddenly in the case of Fr Paddy and after an illness in the case of his brother Denis – it is only natural to be hurt, tearful, even angry. But we must hold on to our faith in a loving God who has seen His own Son die for us. And it is because of his death on the cross at Calvary that Fr Paddy, Denis and their mother Eileen are now enjoying their true life in heaven. This is what we all have to look forward to. Life is changed, not ended.
The parish choir enriched the Mass with beautiful singing, in English and Irish. At the end of the Mass, Fr Anthony thanked all who had come out on a cold and wet night to pray for Mrs Kelly, Fr Paddy and Denis. The Light of Glory to them all.
On Saturday morning, we gathered again to pray for Fr Paddy in the parish church of Kilnadeema and Aile, St Dympna’s, where he had served for nearly three years. The Most Reverend Michael Duignan, Bishop of Clonfert, was joined by several local clergy and priests from Jalingo diocese, Nigeria, who are serving in Clonfert diocese at the moment.
During his homily, Bishop Duignan – referring to the First reading (1 Kings 12:26-32, 13:33-34) – spoke of how Jeroboam, who had seized the kingdom from Solomon’s son Rehoboam, decided that as things weren’t as he liked he’d do something different and turn the people away from what was right and towards false gods in Bethel. He drew an analogy for us when we are in mourning – it is something we don’t want, we don’t understand how a loving God allows it, we’re confused etc. But (echoing what Fr Anthony said the evening before in Laurencetown), Bishop Duignan invited us to also take strength in our faith and not to seek for other empty false answers. Our God is a loving God. When death visits us – and for the sisters of Fr Paddy and Denis’s (Mary, Catherine, Patricia, Eileen and Dympna) as well as Denis’s fiancée, Esther, these recent weeks have been a heavy cross. But their faith will help them to face the future.
We can turn to Mary in times of death. She stood at the foot of the Cross. And in the words of A Mhuire Mháthair, sung in Laurencetown: A Mhuire Mháthair, ‘Sé so my ghuí, Go maire Íosa go deo’ nar gcoí. Ave Maria, mo ghrá Ave, Is tusa mo mháthair is máthair Dé.
May Mary, our Mother, welcome Eileen, Fr Paddy and Denis to their eternal home. Amen.