Funeral Homily at Requiem Mass for Fr. Donal O’Callaghan
16 June 2018
+ Wm. Crean
Muintir Mhuire is synonymous with Fr. Donal O’Callaghan. For more than twenty years he has given everything to nurturing a community of faith that would make the experience of young people their special care. In a booklet prepared more than 10 years ago now he set out to explain “where they were coming from” – to set down the vision born of faith which inspired them. Included in the booklet are the personal testimonies of four young people Kevin, Alison, Bill and Jason what they shared was a great void in their lives, the experience of which robbed them of a sense of joy and hope.
Fr. Donal’s vision was to create a space where their story could be heard – where they felt cared for, where they learned to care for others. Prayer, work, study appreciation of creation would form the basis for a shared life, for a limited time, after which they returned to their vocation refreshed, renewed and equipped with spiritual and personal resources to cope with life’s opportunities and challenges.
Over the years so many have been blessed by this “sanctuary” – this sacred and hallowed space where the seeds of faith find fertile ground underneath the thorn and scrub of contemporary living – too often frenetic and cluttered. Muintir Mhuire is itself a seed at this juncture – it is a work in progress – the foundations have been laid down. Some building has been done and the vision is clear. The task ahead is to continue to ensure that Muintir Mhuire will be a “haven of rest” for weary young souls.
As Fr. Donal began to set out his vision he approached Bishop John Magee for support. He gratefully acknowledged the support he received – though Bishop Magee admitted he was sceptical of a project that was entirely dependent on Divine Providence – Donal might well have thought – oh ye of little faith!
Nevertheless, he relieved him of his diocesan appointment and as they say the rest is history.
It is fitting then that we should be invited to reflect on the Gospel text in St. Matthew that invites us to rely more on Divine Providence in our daily lives. It is to acknowledge our powerlessness and frailty. It is equally an invitation to trust in the genuine care in the hearts of one another. It is to trust that we ultimately thrive in the shade of one another.
To think and live this way is to free ourselves of anxiety and distress. It is born of prayer that places our trust in God’s goodwill. To many this smacks of extreme naivety but for those of faith it is the “power and wisdom of God”.
For a considerable time, Fr. Donal was well aware of the serious health issues he was facing. As he lived so did he face his final personal journey – his trust in God and love of Mary were equally to the fore in the ups and downs of the treatment of his illness. It was humbling and inspiring for me to witness his serenity and calm over these past weeks. He had no regrets. He knew he had given his all according to his best lights. The words of Revelation (2nd Reading) ring so true in this context.
“Happy are those who die in the Lord
Happy indeed the Spirit says
Now they can rest for ever after their work
Since their good deeds go with them”.
While there is a great sense of gratitude in our heart to-day there is also an inevitable sadness for Donal’s family and so many friends who mourn his going from them. In that context the witness of his life is a wonderful legacy and consolation for all who knew him. He would invite you to treasure that legacy of nurturing a community of faith where both young and not so young will come to experience the abundance of life the Lord promises.
So, in the spirit of the faith in which Fr. Donal lived we entrust him to the Lord of all mercies in expectation of the fulfilment of all hope and realisation of all promise.
May he rest in peace.