150th Anniversary of the Consecration of
St. Mary’s Church, Carrigtwohill
5th Sunday of Easter
15th May 2022
Some place to gather
Older members among us might remember an American TV series called “Cheers!”. It was a comedy programme set in a local bar. The fun emerged in the ongoing banter between the cast of characters. The key message was in the signature tune which made reference to the place where everyone knows your name. And that’s why they were all drawn to it. It was a place where everybody was known by name and therefore were somebody.
My friends, we are gathered in St. Mary’s Church, Carrigtwohill to mark and celebrate the 150 years that this sacred place has been a place where people have gathered consistently with one another in a spirit of faith and mutual welcome. “I’ve called you by your name” says the Psalmist “and you are mine”. It is the Lord who has drawn us to this sacred place at all the key moments of our lives. Not just the shared sacramental celebrations but also the profound personal moments of encounter in which our spiritual life reached new depths of understanding and reverence.
This site we know goes back beyond the 150 years we mark to-day. Deeper still are the roots of faithful witness of previous generations which bore fruit in succeeding generations down to this day. The more recent history of both this church and the community of priests, religious and parishioners is well documented in the booklet prepared for to-days celebration. Apart from the ministry of the priests over the decades and the generous support of the parishioners, the establishment of the foundation here of the Sisters of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God (1875) so soon after their foundation by Mother Magdalen in 1872 is a magnificent story of service and courage in its own right. So the Sisters are themselves also celebrating 150 years this year. We rejoice and give thanks with them for the blessings poured out in each new generation.
We gather on the 5th Sunday of Easter and so we have listened to Readings read to all the congregations gathered to-day. They seem providential in their message to us as we seek as a “community of believers” to be intentional disciples in a changed and changing Ireland. The core message from the earliest day of the Christian community is immensely hopeful and indeed inspiring. The opening lines from the Acts of the Apostles have been a source of personal inspiration all my life (Motto: Croí le brí nua).
“Paul and Barnabas put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith”. This is what sharing life and faith in the Lord Jesus means for us as a “community of believers”. We put fresh heart into one another by our presence here in prayer and by the sharing of our friendship and help one another to persevere in the faith in the face of opposition, indifference even ridicule.
The Apocalypse, I know, is sometimes fantastical in its vision but it stimulates our spiritual imagination to sense and believe the Lord’s promise “Now, I am making the whole of creation new”.
Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them, they shall be his people and he will be their God. His name is “God – with – them” – Emmanuel, Wonder Counsellor, Prince of Peace.
My friends, how great is our desire and need for Peace. The promise of Isaiah to turn the steel of swords into plough shares was never so desired and needed as Christian brothers and sisters wreak unspeakable suffering on one another in the conflict in Ukraine. We keep them in our prayer and continue to offer them a “place to gather” in their hour of need.
As we celebrate to-day the blessings and accomplishments of the past 150 years and beyond we also cast an eye toward the future. If the plans in place by way of new schools comes to pass, if the transport infrastructure and accompanying housing development takes place, Carrigtwohill will face a decade or two of really rapid development and expansion. The parish and the community of believers the intentional disciples need to prepare to make them welcome. They will need a place to gather, to share friendship, faith and family, a place / space to mark and celebrate the milestones of life. This building is cherished for its beauty and sacred character yet it needs always a living vibrant community of disciples to make it a source of nourishment and support for a new generation.
Our time calls for a new witness to our faith in Christ. This parish community is uniquely equipped to be that witness. With the confidence of deep roots in faith and community you can reach out in respect and generosity to invite new disciples to walk with you on the way (of Christ).
My prayer then for you and with you on this day of thanksgiving and hope (I borrow from St. Paul – Ephes. 4:1-4)
“I implore you then to lead a life worthy of your vocation.
Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness,
gentleness and patience.
Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit
by the peace that binds you together.
There is One Body, One Spirit, just as you were all called
into one and the same hope when you were called”.