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Blind Children Living with Dignity and Freedom in Niger Republic

A blind student at Sebeta School Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch, Flickr CC

“Our appeal was followed by all, the children and young people and their families”, Fr Raphael Casamayor SMA told FIDES about the recent initiatives organized for the blind children of the Catholic mission in Dosso, Niger Republic. “The goal was to offer educational opportunities that meet their needs: the children should learn something together that can help them with their independence,” explained the missionary. “A blind person lives in the dark, but this does not mean that he / she must constantly depend on others, they can make additional efforts to develop their own mobility and also to learn a trade”.

The project, supported by the Zankey Annuura Association, was launched on July 18th. “It was the first time that something like this was done in Dosso after a long period of planning and preparation”, Fr Raphael explained. “We picked up the children very early and met in the former library of the Catholic Mission, with large rooms that catered to our needs. After a small snack, the activities began with exercises and activities that lasted all morning and continued in the afternoon, after lunch”. The Mayor of Dosso also took part in some of the activities, accompanying the children as they practiced walking with the white canes typical of the blind, recognizing objects, navigating the city and crossing streets. “We were thrilled when the mayor, along with our group, explained to motorists the meaning of the raised white stick and their obligation to stop. He told us that this gesture should be included in the Highway Code and that it would raise awareness in driving schools”.

In this context, Father Casamayor also appeals to the country’s institutions and urges the government to invest in the education of the disabled without discrimination. “A life of dignity and freedom is the fundamental goal we aspire to for our young people. These people, who are certainly among the most disadvantaged and marginalized in this country, deserve to have a dignified and respected place in society”. (RC/AP)

With thanks to Agenzia Fides, 30/8/2022

Read also about St Martin’s Ministry to the Deaf – an initiative of the SMA Ghana Province.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2022 – Year C

4 September 2022

Wisdom 9:13-18                    Philemon 9-10,12-17                    Luke 14:25-33

The Cost of Discipleship

The Jesus we meet in today’s gospel is far from the ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ of our childhood prayers. Instead, we meet the tough, uncompromising prophet of God’s kingdom. Jesus pulls no punches when spelling out the conditions he requires of those who wish to be his disciples: ‘If anyone comes to me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not take up his/her cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (Lk 14:25-26).

It is well to recall the context in which Jesus made these statements. He had set his face resolutely towards Jerusalem and was well aware of the fate that awaited him there: rejection, betrayal, and death on a cross. And he wanted his disciples to be under no illusions about what lay ahead of them if they continued to follow him. It is clear that many (perhaps all) of them entertained expectations of earthly power and glory (cf. Lk 22:24-30). It is also clear that his words made little impression on them until after his death and resurrection. Only then, enlightened and empowered by the Spirit, did they fully embrace the challenges of being disciples of their crucified and risen Lord.

But what about us, the disciples of Jesus living in the 21st century? Surely Jesus does not expect us to take these harsh demands seriously. They seem altogether preposterous, completely out of kilter with the dominant values of our time and culture – security, comfort, human flourishing, and the support of family and friends.  Indeed, we may feel inclined to respond to Jesus in the words of American tennis legend, John McEnroe: ‘you cannot be serious’.  But Jesus is being very serious, and he did intend his words to be taken to heart by those who wished to follow him. There is no way of interpreting his blunt words to make them less challenging and more acceptable that is not simply escapist. Certainly, the intention of Jesus was not to make us miserable. As he himself tells us, he was sent by the Father to bring us life in its fullness (cf. Jn 10:10). He came to teach us how to love, and live as children of an infinitely compassionate and loving Father. But there is a price to pay if we wish to follow Jesus and imitate his example of a love that remained  steadfast and true to itself even in the face hostility and rejection. In the words of American poet, T.S. Eliot, genuine discipleship ‘costs not less than everything’ (Little Gidding).

The famous Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, got it right when he stated in his popular spiritual classic, The Cost of Discipleship, that the call to discipleship inevitably involves the cross: ‘The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life; it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die.’ Bonhoeffer was writing from personal experience. His fidelity to his Christian convictions led him to the ultimate sacrifice of his life. His involvement in a small Protestant resistance movement and conspiracy to defeat Hitler led to his incarceration and death by hanging in Flossenbürg concentration camp. Bonhoeffer describes discipleship a costly grace. ‘It is costly because it calls for obedience; it is grace because it calls for obedience to Christ. It is costly because it may cost us our lives; it is grace because only thus are we brought to new life.’ 

Today’s gospel message it not only profoundly counter-cultural; it falls within the category of things that lie beyond the grasp of our limited human understanding, as our first reading from the Book of Wisdom states. ‘Who can know the intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord’  (Wis 9:13). The wisdom of the cross is a wisdom that is written ‘in the heavens’ (Wis 9:16). It is not the calculating wisdom of the worldly wise, but rather, as St Paul reminds us, ‘God’s foolishness [which] is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness [which] is stronger than human strength’ (1 Cor 1:25). Like Bonhoeffer, Paul is speaking from personal experience. In our second reading today from his Letter to Philemon, he refers to himself as ‘an old man… still a prisoner of Jesus Christ’ forced to wear chains (Phil 9). Far from making him embittered, Paul’s years in prison matured him as a disciple and apostle of Christ, enabling him to imitate more closely the tender and compassionate love of his Master, as this short reading clearly illustrates.

Our following of Jesus today may not lead to physical death or to imprisonment but, if it is genuine and not just wishful thinking, it will involve the cross in one form or another. For those living in a post-Christian secular culture, perhaps the word of the British journalist, Philip Toynbee, are apposite: ‘Those who are trying to live Christian lives today are faced, not with martyrdom, not even with hostility, not even with contempt. The are faced with the deadly indifference of their fellow men and women, lightened only by an occasional burst of amused curiosity’. So, let us pray in the words of St Richard of Chichester for the grace ‘to see Christ more clearly, follow him more nearly, and love him more dearly, day by day’.

Fr Michael McCabe SMA, Cork

To listen to an alternative Homily from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, Zambia please click on the play button below.  

SHALOM Empowerment Center addresses violence against women and children

The Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) is based in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa. Founded in 2009 by SMA Father Padraig Devine, its aim is to help in resolving conflicts and to bring about reconciliation. SHALOM seeks to do this by promoting non-violent social transformation, integral human development and respect for local culture, traditions and justice.

A recent initiative addresses violence against women and children.

Responding to Shalom-SCCRR’s launch of Shalom Empowerment Center (SEC), aimed at transforming the lives of vulnerable and marginalized women and children in the extremely poor urban informal settlements, Mrs. Lucy Mukunjura, “The adverse life events and slum living conditions characterized by dire poverty, insecurity and violence, exposes women and children to shameful and stigmatizing conditions rendering them vulnerable and destitute. This calls for effective strategies and interventions to help them prevent and respond to the violence against them. The need for social support to women and children living in the informal urban settlements (slums) can therefore never be over-emphasized.” 

Violence against women and children is a complex social problem in Nairobi’s urban informal settlements (slums). Exposure to various forms of harm and living in fear prevents women from fully realizing their potentials, reducing their wellbeing, and also reducing their contribution to the development of society. Like most urban slums in the world, women and children in Nairobi’s slums suffer a number of challenges, including fewer educational and economic opportunities, limited access to reproductive health services, poor representation in decision-making and high rates of violence. The latest survey by Trends and Insights for Africa (Tifa), shows that women are the majority victims of domestic violence at 52 percent followed by men at 37 percent and children at 36 percent. The survey conducted between September 24 and October 2021, shows that women continue to suffer from violence despite well-intentioned government efforts to end the vice.

Thousands of women and children in the urban informal settlements where the Shalom Empowerment Center (SEC) addressing violence against women and children works, suffer from violence of many forms — sexual violence, child and/or forced marriage, sex trafficking and rape – which are global public health problems of epidemic proportions. Lack of empowerment keeps women away from overcoming subjugation of violence. The negative consequences resulting from this violence include exposure to depression and suicidal tendencies, mental health issues, unstable family relationships, experiencing physical and psychological violence, risk of miscarriage and having low birth weight infants and delayed onset of prenatal care.

Shalom staff visit a family in Kibera as part of the community outreach aimed at engaging women to identify appropriate interventions

The cost and consequences of violence against women last for generations. Children who witness domestic violence are at increased risk of anxiety, depression, low-self-esteem, poor school performance, among other problems that harm their well-being and personal development. Mrs. Fransica Mbula, a health worker from Riruta underpins this by noting that, “Women and children in the informal urban settlements have undergone a lot of abuse and pain but they chose to live in their abusive conditions as they are not empowered on how to address these forms of violence.”

The establishment of the Shalom Empowerment Center (SEC) was born from an experience of the arduous and protracted social challenges that the organization has witnessed women, children and families face on a daily basis in the urban slum settings of Nairobi. Ms. Ilhan Ali Salah, in endorsing the center said, “In my short experience of the Shalom Empowerment Centre project, I can attest to the importance of this centre and its need for the vulnerable communities in the urban informal settlements and encourage support for the centre from all over the world.” The SEC is a high priority institution within the structure of the Shalom-SCCRR’s vision, mission and interventions that seeks to promote protection and respect for the human rights of women and children.

Peacebuilding training session in Kawangware

Shalom Empowerment Center (SEC) is committed to addressing all forms of manifest and structural violence inflicted on human life through research, training, development, and transformation of relationships for long-term conflict prevention and management. Since our inception, the SEC has been engaging influential women and youth leaders from 10 informal urban settlements or slum areas within Nairobi. In the past six months, the center has trained over 400 women leaders and 100 youth leaders as a basis for enabling them to be agents of transforming the key drivers of violence against women and children in their localities.

The capacity building is empowering the women and youth with analytical skills and peacebuilding techniques essential for conflict transformation and reconciliation within their conflict environments. Women have been empowered through trainings on paradigms of conflict analysis, conflict transformation, and women’s role in peacebuilding. These trainings have been key in enabling the women to develop frameworks for the prevention and transformation of emerging violent situations among communities.

Appreciating the work of the Shalom Empowerment Center (SEC), Mrs. Elizabeth Odour from Mathare noted that, “women in the informal urban settlements have really bore the brunt of manifest violent conflict and they are not given an opportunity to participate in the transformation of these conflicts.” She lauded Shalom Empowerment Center (SEC) for the availability of a center where women are empowered with the analytical skills that will see the vulnerable and marginalized women from these locations play a crucial role in overcoming subjugation of violence in their conflict environs.

Ms Esther Kibe meeting women from marginalised commuities in Northern Kenya

Ms. Catherine Maina, a para-legal and community leader from Mathare appreciated Shalom Empowerment Center’s (SEC) unique approach that sets out to establish the root causes, as distinct from just dealing with the symptoms, of conflict in specific target project areas. This, she underscores has been achieved through the tremendous rigorous work done by Shalom Empowerment Center’s (SEC) team of highly qualified peace practitioners.

Shalom Empowerment Center (SEC) actively trains and engages hundreds of women and men influential opinion shapers in working towards breaking the vicious cycle of conflict in the urban informal settlements of Nairobi. Since its founding, the organization has focused on addressing issues of women’s right to their dignity, safety and security. We believe that social protection systems and formation institutions for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are needed to ensure that the lives and dignity of women and their children are esteemed,

Fr Ollie Noonan SMA planting a tree of life with Fr Padraig Devine SMA, Fr Eugene Kubasu and Patrick Kimani

valued, and protected. Going forward, the Shalom Empowerment Center (SEC) hopes to establish similar empowerment centers in the Northern part of Kenya that will be addressing the different forms of violence facing the vulnerable and marginalized women and children from those regions.

The project is committed to empowering women and children to be significant architects of their own security and development whereby their human rights and dignity are respected and honoured. We focus on the unique needs of women, children and families in Nairobi’s urban informal settlements, recognizing their exposure to violence — manifest and structural, while ensuring that support is available.

SEASON OF CREATION 2022 – 1st Sept to 4th Oct

The Season of Creation begins on 1 September, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and ends on 4 October, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology.  It is a time set aside by Christians all around the world to listen and respond together to the cry of Creation: “It is a special time for all Christians to pray and work together to care for our common home.

Originally inspired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, this Season is an opportunity to cultivate our “ecological conversion”, a conversion encouraged by Saint John Paul II as a response to the “ecological catastrophe” predicted by Saint Paul VI back in 1970.” Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, 1 September 2022.  Read full text of Pope Francis message HERE

 

The burning bush is the symbol for the Season of Creation 2022.
The wildfires in 2022 are a sign of the devastating effects that climate change is having on our planet. Creation cries out as forests crackle, animals and people are forced to flee the fires of injustice that we have caused.

The fire that called to Moses on Mt. Horeb did not consume or destroy the bush. He was told to remove his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground in God’s presence. May this symbol move us to remove the “sandals” of our unsustainable lifestyles that disconnect us from creation and our Creator. May we contemplate our connection to the holy ground where we live, and listen for the voice of creation.’

This year’s theme, “Listen to the Voice of Creation”  is a reminder that we need to pay attention and be aware that, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Ps 19: 1-4) Creation never ceases to proclaim, but do we listen?  

The Season of Creation is a time when we can make sure that we do listen. In prayer we lament the individuals, communities, species, and ecosystems who are lost, and those whose livelihoods are threatened by habitat loss and climate change. In prayer we center the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor and we reflect on the fact that we are co-creatures, part of all that God has made and that our wellbeing is interwoven with the wellbeing of the Earth.

In this season we, as individuals and communities, are invited to participate  through prayer, sustainability projects, and advocacy:

Prayer: Host or participate in a prayer service that unites Christians to care for our common home. 

  • Sustainability: Become involved in raising public awareness of and witnessing to care for creation in our communities through the changes we make and the example of caring for creation that we give each day.
  • Advocacy: Raise your voice for climate justice by participating or joining an ongoing campaign, such as the movement to divest from fossil fuels or a local project in your area. In the coming months inform yourself more by following the issues and events  leading up to COP27, to be held in Egypt, November 7-18 2022. Consider writing to or speaking with your government representatives or negotiators on issues that will protect creation.

2022 Season of Creation Prayer

Creator of All,

From your communion of love your Word went forth to create a symphony of life that sings your praise.

By your Holy Wisdom you made the Earth to bring forth a diversity of creatures who praise you in their being. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

You called human beings to till and keep your garden. You placed us into right relationships with each creature so that we could listen to their voices, and learn how to safeguard the conditions for life. But we turn in on ourselves and away from our co-creatures.

We close our ears to the counsel of our fellow creatures. We fail to listen to the cries of the poor and the needs of the most vulnerable. We silence the voices of those who hold the traditions that teach us to care for the Earth. We close our ears to your creative, reconciling and sustaining Word that calls to us through the Scriptures.

We lament the loss of our fellow species and their habitats that will never speak again. We grieve the loss of human cultures, along with the lives and livelihoods that have been displaced or perished. Creation cries out as forests crackle, and animals alike flee the fires of injustice that we have lit by our unwillingness to listen.

In this Season of Creation, we pray that you would call to us, as from the burning bush, with the sustaining fire of your Spirit. Breathe upon us. Open our ears and move our hearts. Turn us from our inward gaze. Teach us to contemplate your creation, and listen for the voice of each creature declaring your glory. For “faith comes from hearing.”

Give us hearts to listen for the good news of your promise to renew the face of the Earth. Enlighten us with the grace to follow the Way of Christ as we learn to walk lightly upon this holy ground. Fill us with the hope to quench the fires of injustice with the light of your healing love that sustains our common home.

In the name of the One who came to proclaim good news to all creation, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

 

FOOD FOR OUR FAITH JOURNEY – Part Five

Welcome to the fifth part of Food for our Faith Journey.  This week’s focus is on the role of Mary as a mother and as a model for believers

Included below are: 

  • To inform us –  a video reflection on the Eucharist written and recorded by Fr Michael McCabe SMA. 
  • To raise our minds to God – A video Prayer for Others, thinking of those who accompany us through life’s journey and asking protection for all.   
  • To inspire us – a quotation to motivate and strengthen the efforts we make to live our Faith.   

MARY MOTHER & MODEL
Fr Michael McCabe SMA

Prayer for Others 

“Mary’s greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God not herself.”
Pope Benedict XVI

 

 

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

28 August 2022

Ecclesiasticus 3:17-18                         Hebrews 12:18-19,20,28-29                         Luke 14:1,7-14

Theme: The Virtue of Humility

Today’s readings are all about humility. Our first reading from the Book of Ecclesiasticus tells us that the Lord ‘accepts the homage of the humble’ (Ecc 3:20). Therefore, ‘the greater you are the more you should behave humbly’ (Ecc 3:18). Truly great people are humble enough to listen to others and learn from them. The haughty who think they have nothing to learn from others are simply incurable fools. In our gospel reading from Luke, Jesus contrasts the behaviour of the proud fool who grabs the seats of honour at a party, and is ignominiously demoted, with the humble person who takes the lowest place and is promoted to a higher position. The gospel ends with the familiar saying of Jesus: ‘Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted’ (Lk 14:11).

According to the poet, T.S. Eliot, ‘humility is the most difficult of all virtues to achieve; nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of self’. I agree with the first part of Eliot’s statement but not with the second. Yes, it is difficult to have true humility, but not because we think well of ourselves. To think well of ourselves is a healthy desire. The problem for many of us is that we suffer from a poor self-image. We tend to put ourselves down, at least, in our own minds. Marianne Williamson is ‘on the ball’ when she says that ‘It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ True humility is not about playing small out of fear of the gifts God has given us. It is rather the honest acceptance of who and what we are as children of God, created in his image and likeness. As St Paul reminds us, ‘We are God’s work of art’ (Eph 2:10). And how could God create anything that was not awesome? Yes, we are awesome creatures of a loving God who formed us with infinite love and care. True humility is recognising and accepting the wonder of our being, and of our giftedness. As the famous spiritual writer, C.S. Lewis stated: ‘Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less’.

What then are we to make of Jesus’ challenge to the Pharisees about their behaviour when invited to a feast? He had noticed how they chosethe places of honour (Lk 14:7). We could be forgiven for thinking that the reason for this behaviour was their high opinion of themselves, but this is not the case. They chose the seats of honour because they wanted others to think highly of them, which is not the same thing. The desire to appear important in the eyes of others betrays an insecurity that comes from not really appreciating oneself. Those who have a genuine appreciation of their own worth do not need to put themselves ahead of others. Freed from that destructive desire, they can allow others to let their lights shine. They have no problem taking a back seat when invited to a feast.

What Jesus is challenging is the Pharisees’ selfishness and small-mindedness. They are ‘full of themselves’ and want to appear important because they do not have a true sense of their own worth as creatures of a loving God. Therefore, they look for, and need, the approval of others. We can sometimes behave like that too. We can feel so insecure about our own giftedness that we are always seeking the approval of others. Jesus calls the Pharisees (and us) to a higher standard of behaviour, the kind of behaviour that only truly free persons with a healthy self-image can practice: ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner do not ask your friends, brothers, relations, or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No! When you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. That they cannot repay you means that you are fortunate because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again (Lk 14:13-14). This is the kind of behaviour that truly humble people practice – behaviour based on seeing the needs of others and tending to them. Let us, then, take up the challenge of Jesus and live our lives in humble service of others, especially those who cannot repay our love. I will end with the full text of Marianne Williamson’s inspiring reflection to which I already referred.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Fr Michael McCabe SMA, Cork

To listen to an alternative Homily from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, Zambia please click on the play button below.  

Fr Maurice (Mossie) Kelleher SMA – Obituary

Fr Maurice Kelleher, SMA, passed away peacefully in the St Theresa’s Nursing Unit, SMA House Blackrock Road, Cork on Wednesday, 10 August 2022. His sister Carmel, his brother-in-law Fred and some SMA confreres were with him in his final hours.

Known to most as Fr Mossie, he was the eldest of eight children born to Tim and Rita [née Manning] of Dunmanway, Co Cork. Mossie was born in London and, due to the Second World War, his father sent his wife and young son home to Dunmanway. In time, he also returned to Ireland. Mossie made his First Holy Communion and Confirmation in Dunmanway. Mossie attended St Patrick’s Primary School (1945-1950) and St Ronan’s Secondary School, Dunmanway (1951-1956).

Funeral Mass of Fr Mossie led by Fr Eamonn Finnegan SMA, Vice Provincial

A friend of his uncle was the late Fr Denis O’Donovan SMA, also from Dunmanway, and meeting him influenced the young secondary school student to join the African Missions in Cork. As he replied to a question posed to him on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee: “from an early age I had an interest in priesthood – I knew some inspiring local priests. But from reading the African Missionary (the SMA magazine) and knowing Fr O’Donovan I saw Africa as a challenging place and I had a sense of adventure!” And how Mossie loved challenges and opportunities to do new things and go to new places. And so, in September 1956, he entered the SMA Spiritual Year programme at the SMA Novitiate, Cloughballymore, Co Galway and became a member of the Society on 25 June 1957. With his academic qualification, he was then sent to study at UCC, living in the SMA House, Wilton, Cork. After gaining an Honours BA from UCC in 1960, he transferred to the SMA Major seminary in Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. Along with nine classmates (including fellow Corkmen, Fr Denis Collins and the late Fr Owen ‘Fra’ Sweeney) he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of St Colman and St Patrick, Newry, on 18 December 1963 by Bishop Eusibius Crawford OP, a native of Warrenpoint, and recently ordained a bishop in the Solomon Islands, in the Pacific Ocean.

The young enthusiastic missionary was appointed to western Nigeria, setting sail from Liverpool on the MS Apapa to the sounds of the Beatles songs – She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah – belting out from a radio at the quayside. The swinging sixties were being left behind for the tropical heat of West Africa. After the initial six-months Tyrocinium programme (learning about the local customs and Yoruba language etc.), Mossie was appointed as the Editor of the weekly Catholic Independent which, at that time, was the national Catholic paper in Nigeria. He was also a member of the Loyola College teaching staff and this began what was to be a recurring theme in his missionary life: working with youth and the formation of the laity, both in Nigeria and Ireland. Mossie endured bouts of ill health which interrupted his missionary life and the first of these saw him returning to Ireland in June 1973. During his convalescence, he was appointed for one year as the Director of the SMA Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co Mayo.

Burial in the Cemetery at St Josephs Church, Wilton.

From 1974 to 1980, Fr Mossie was the Dean of the SMA Formation House in Maynooth, Co Kildare. Recognizing how important it was for the SMA seminarians to be able to properly prepare and deliver homilies / talks, Mossie began what became known as the SMA Student Retreat team, bringing students to help him with his schools Retreat ministry. Mossie was very good at interacting with young people, girls and boys. Many invitations to give school retreats had to be turned down as both Mossie and the seminarians had to concentrate on their own responsibilities, preparing for missionary priesthood. In 1981, Mossie returned to Ibadan as Director of the Diocesan Lay Apostolate Centre, the only one of its kind in the entire country.

The Centre ran courses for 25 different groups in the diocese. Fr Mossie organised courses for youth leaders (those between 14 and 25 years of age) over a six months period. During each course (with 25 attendees from both urban and rural parts of the diocese), self-improvement, basic knowledge and leadership skills were dealt with, all with the aim of developing skill sets in the participants which they, in turn, could impart in their own parishes. A Youth Congress with the theme Youth are the Hope of the Church,  attracted over 400 participants: “Every aspect of the congress was organised by the youth leaders. I could not possibly have attempted it on my own“, Fr Mossie admitted. This included finding accommodation and feeding all the participants. When, in 1987, Fr Mossie was recalled to Ireland, there were 27 Youth groups scattered throughout the diocese. These groups help train young people for the jobs market as well as organizing drama and cultural events. When leaving Ibadan, Fr Mossie paid tribute to the Irish lay volunteers who helped organize the Centre courses etc. His greatest joy was to be succeeded by a Nigerian fulltime lay organiser. He returned to Ireland to be part of the SMA Vocations team, based in Wilton, Cork.

Fr Mossie kept up to date theologically, pastorally and with the changing face of the Church. He undertook a Sabbatical break in 1991 / 1992 – part of it a period of prayer and reflection with the Benedictine Community in Glenstal and a renewal programme in Jerusalem.

After his Sabbatical, he was appointed Parish Priest of St Joseph’s SMA Parish, Wilton, succeeding his classmate, Fr James O’Kane SMA. Fr Mossie had a heart attack during his time as PP but, by the grace of God, he was saved due to the immediate intervention of a number of CUH staff who were in the Hall under the Parish House doing a Coronary Care refresher course. In 1998, he moved to Dromantine as Director of Retreats and Laity Formation. For the next seventeen years, he served in different capacities in Dromantine, some of his roles overlapping with others: Vice Superior, Founder and Coordinator of the SMA Lay Association (SMALA), Conference Centre Team member.

In 2015, Fr Mossie had his final appointment, as Resource Person to the Wilton and Blackrock Road SMA communities and Parishes. He continued to lead some Retreats and Recollections for different groups in the country. Over the years, he also gave Retreats in South Africa, Uganda as well as visiting our missionaries in Zambia, accompanied by 5 SMALA members.

Mossie was catholic in all his sporting interests – cricket, hurling (he won a medal with his beloved Doheny GAA club, Dunmanway), Gaelic football, athletics, soccer – initially a West Ham supporter he, in recent years, transferred his loyalties to Liverpool because his nephew Caoimhín Kelleher plays as a goal-keeper for the famous Reds! But, most of all, Mossie loved golf! And was no mean player right up to the curtailment brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic. Once things opened up again, Mossie’s health was beginning to decline and so he was unable to return to the fairways of Cork and beyond!

Asked what gave him the greatest joy after 50 years of priesthood he wrote: “the joy I got from a diversity of ministries – as teacher, formator, parish work, retreat work and the joy of working with lay people, both in Africa and Ireland…” 

Preaching at a Mass for the happy repose of Mossie’s soul, his very good friend and classmate, Fr Denis Collins, reminded us that a great feature of the man was that he could laugh at himself and things that happened to him and even blunders he made in all innocence. More often than not, Mossie would himself tell us of them! And share in the laughter afterwards.

I want to conclude with the words of a song Mossie had in his Golden Jubilee booklet, which echo the man and priest so many of us knew:

Thank You for Your faithfulness, Your strength, and Your love,
For gifts of special places, and for friends.
Thank You for drawing me ever closer to You.
Be with me on the road that lies ahead.

You and I, Lord, we share life.
Together we have been, and we will be.
My life is Yours, Lord.
I am open to the mysteries and wonders of Your love.

Fr Mossie, may you share eternal with the God you served so faithfully and well.

Níl sa bhás ach múchadh an choiníl roimh gile na gréine ag éirí – Death is but the snuffing of the candle before the brightness of the rising sun.

To read the Homily of Fr Noel O’Leary, Leader of the Wilton SMA Community, at Fr Mossie’s Funeral Mass click here.

Fr Maurice [Mossie] Kelleher SMA – Funeral Mass Homily

The Funeral Mass for the late Fr Mossie Kelleher’s took place on Friday, 12th August 2022, in St Joseph’s SMA Church, Wilton, Cork City. His burial took place afterwards in the SMA Community cemetery. Fr Eamonn Finnegan, SMA Vice Provincial Leader, was the Principal Celebrant and the SMA Wilton Community Leader, Fr Noel O’Leary, was the Homilist. As well as a very large congregation of family, parishioners and friends, over 40 SMA confreres concelebrated the Mass.

The death and life of each of us has its influence on others”. A very challenging line, one could be frightened by it or comforted by it. Frightened in that we so often procrastinate and never get around to doing what we intended to do and time can pass us by. Or we feel we do not have enough time and keep thinking of all the things we should be doing and again time passes by. Or we take things in our stride and do what we can to the best of our ability and let God do the rest. And so often this can influence the final days of a person. I have so often come across people full of regrets of all that they feel they should have done or what they should not have done or what they missed out on.

I say all this in the light of the experience for many of us with Mossie over the last few weeks and especially this past week. It was a case of making up his mind and very much at peace with it. He, with the help of his sister Carmel and other family members shared what he wanted and was very matter of fact about it. He was very much at ease and expressed his gratitude for his life and the many blessings he received and the care and love that he received. He was a man that was very much at peace with His God and with himself.

He very much loved his family and kept up to date with his nieces and nephews and their lives and his eyes would light up with pride as he spoke of them and of the new generation coming up. Very proud of his roots in Dunmanway and loved to tease me when the Doheny’s were doing well and asking me of the Bantry Blues.  Needless to say we kept up a very long tradition of healthy bantering between the two tribes.

His love for his family was very evident and he proudly shared the chocolates he received with the community and with great pride, telling us what part of the world they came from. His arm didn’t need twisting to go on an outing with his family.

He loved sports and was a keen hurler in his young days. His brother shared with me that he seemed to take on a new character when he was on the pitch. Never shied away from tackling where needed and very competitive. For many years he played many games of golf with his confreres and friends. He spoke proudly of the Golf Fraternity that was set up here in Wilton parish and every year, a tournament was organised where they continued the camaraderie and competitiveness on the course. He loved social gatherings and was always ready to give a song or two. He loved company and drew energy from having people around him.

He was involved in different ministries throughout his priestly life. Beginning with Editor of Catholic Paper in Ibadan Nigeria just months after arriving in Nigeria as a newly ordained priest in 1964. From there he was teaching in Loyola College in Ibadan for seven years. He was brought back to Ireland to teach post in SMA College in Ballinafad, Co. Mayo for the final year of that College. He was then involved with the initial formation of SMA seminarians in Maynooth for 5 years. Back to Nigeria for five years, mainly working with youth and Lay ministry. He served as Wilton Parish Priest from ’92 – ’98. He then transferred to our Retreat and Conference Centre in Dromantine, Co. Down – responsible for Lay Apostolate work and Retreat Ministry. And from 2015 until recently, he was the Resource Person to our SMA Parishes and SMA Communities, living again in the Wilton Community. He was very well known through his retreat ministry throughout Ireland and which also took him to South Africa and Uganda.

Many of us that passed through Maynooth benefited by the retreat programme that he set up while he was based there and was kept up for many years long after he left. I first met Mossie when I was a 1st year student in Maynooth and one could see that he enjoyed retreat ministry and going around to schools and religious communities. I would say he found it difficult his role as Dean in Maynooth where it was expected of him to correct and reprimand. This did not come easy to him and needless nor did his students make it easy for him. But he managed to live to tell the tale. Up to last year, he always looked much younger than his years and thrived when working with young people and groups of the laity. He had great variety in his ministry and can safely say that he brought his positive outlook in life with him which endeared him to so many. He had a very wide circle of friends and cherished his friends and they him.

Some of Fr Mossie’s family at the graveside in Wilton

He loved his time here as Parish Priest and many remember him fondly. Some of the staff shared many stories as he was a great one to share stories with them. The ladies in the parish responsible for decorating the altar informed us that Fr. Mossie’s favourite was yellow. That is why we have this beautiful arrangement of yellow flowers decorating the sanctuary today. Well done and thanks to the flower ladies. Yellow is also the Papal Colours. I wonder is that saying anything to us.

Our first reading speaks of a time for everything, God has made everything suitable for its time. Mossie would have lived this out in his different ministries. He very much went with the flow.

The words of Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me”. Mossie’s faith was important to him and he lived it out in his daily life and his interaction with people, not setting himself apart but rather very much at ease and making the other at ease. It is so easy to get ourselves anxious and worried about what might or might not happen and losing sight of the present moment. And, certainly we are living in a world where so many are rushing around and not being able to enjoy the present moment.

Many of you are familiar with the story of Alfred Noble, the Swedish inventor and business man who died in 1896. An obituary appeared in a newspaper on him even though he was still alive. It was a double shock for him, the fact that he was still alive and what they wrote about him was not the way he wished to be remembered. In his will, he left the bulk of his vast fortune to be placed in a fund in which the interest would be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on humankind.

I began this homily with the first line of our 2nd reading today; “The death and life of each of us has its influence on others”. I shared on how Mossie may have touched many of us. Now, the challenge is for each of us to ask ourselves how we touch others and like Alfred Noble, wishes not to be remembered by.

At funerals I often have said that the greatest gift that we can give to our loved one is to cherish what touched us most and put it into practise in our own lives.  And take on board the words of Jesus “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, and believe also in me.

Noel O’Leary SMA