I feel very honoured to have been invited by Father Fachtna O’Driscoll and the SMA Irish Provincial Team to come to Cork today to be Principal Celebrant at the special con-celebrated Mass today. I thank you for that honour. Today’s Mass marked the formal launch of your Jubilee celebrations, a jubilee to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society at Lyon in France. I congratulate you on reaching this historic milestone. It is a milestone that provides an excellent opportunity to pause and reflect and give thanks –

  • To give thanks to God for what has been achieved over the last 150 years.
  • To recognise and applaud and salute the noble generosity and heroic enthusiasm of generations of SMA missionaries, who left all not for profit or for gain but to tell people in Africa that God is love.
  • To acknowledge the outstanding loyalty of very dedicated cohorts of lay co-workers.

The Jubilee also provides an occasion to assess the prospects for the future, and to see the potential for consolidation, giving careful attention to the signs of the times and the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

I also congratulate you on the really impressive Programme of Events which you have planned for the year. I wish it great success. I know it will bring many blessings as you study and pray and go on pilgrimage to the various shrines and sanctuaries that are precious to SMA history. I am quite sure that the year will bring many fruits and graces.

Personally I have nothing but the very best of memories of my associations with the SMA. Your Vocations Promotions people came to St. Patrick’s College, Cavan during my time there in the fifties. In very spirited and enthusiastic presentations, they put before us a clear and attractive picture of the missionary, reminding us of how Patrick himself had come as a missionary to Ireland. Later, as a young priest, I had the good fortune to go to Dromantine on various short courses e.g, Parish Renewal; Marriage Encounter type weekends; and also, of course, courses for young priests. I remember being there in the midst of a mighty frost and snow with temperatures way below zero but the warm welcome which the SMA gave made up for it all. Another thing that has always struck me is the very strong desire, on the part of the SMA, to help the local church in any way they could here in Ireland.

Later on, during my time on the staff of the Irish College in Rome I had occasion to renew once again my acquaintances with many SMA people and it was always very pleasant and happy. Father Pat Harrington was your Superior General then and Father Kieran, the present Superior General, was immersed in his post-graduate studies then. I then came to know Father Michael McCabe from my own native county of Cavan.

Since coming to Armagh eleven years ago, I have come to know Dromantine and appreciate the treasure that it is. I call it the ante camera of paradise. I thank you for the decision taken some years ago to invest substantial resources in Dromantine and I salute how well that has been achieved. I salute also the efforts of Father Eamonn Finnegan in that matter and all those who helped him.

I heard recently a proposal that the Catholic Church in Ireland should designate the next decade as the decade dedicated to the new evangelisation of adult formation and were that to happen, I am sure Dromantine would have an invaluable role to play. In agriculture, farmers often talk of re-seeding fields that have become tired and yield less than their true potential. The Church in Ireland is in need of a certain amount of re-seeding at the moment and we need all the help we can to achieve that.

Last Friday we welcomed to Armagh a group of pilgrims from a town in northern Italy called San Colombano al Lambro. The town is named after St Columbanus of course who stopped there on his way to Bobbio. Isn’t it marvellous to think that, 1,500 years later, there are people willing and able to make a pilgrimage of gratitude to Ireland for the gift that the great Irish missionary brought to them so long ago.

I am delighted to learn that the small seeds sown by Bishop Marion de Brésillac 150 years ago have grown into a huge tree with so many branches with roots in Africa and America, Asia and Europe. Today we thank God for the 944 members working mainly in Africa of course, but also in the Americas, Asia and Oceania. We salute the courageous decision taken some years ago to accept members from Africa and Asia and we rejoice in the people who have joined the Society from the eleven African countries as well as from India and the Philippines.

I am delighted to know that there are currently 236 members of the Irish Province. We are proud that the Province has given four (4) Superior Generals to the Society and that twenty-one (21) have been called to serve the Church in Africa as successors to the apostles. We all take pride in this contribution to the marvellous story of the SMA.

Sons of Mgr Bresillac go forward – Africa has great need of you“. Those stirring words of the late Pope John Paul II to you in 1983 are still relevant and inspiring today.

Prospere Procedite indeed. May the SMA celebrations here in Ireland this year remind all of us of Ireland’s proud missionary record. May the glorious example of countless SMA missionaries, the real heroes, dedicating their lives to the glory of God, inspire Irish people to appreciate the faith that motivated such self-sacrifice and may we all live that faith to the full.

Thank you.

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