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Homily of Bishop William Crean – 18th July 2021 – Benemerenti Presentation to Bridget Connolly

16th Sunday B

St. Abina’s Church, Clondrohid

Benemerenti Presentation

to Bridget Connolly

“He took pity on them, like sheep without a shepherd”



My friends,


One of the features of life to-day is the number of people who have a Facebook page who have followers – some with a small number but many who have followers in their thousands and multiples of thousands. Among them are identified those who are described as “influencers” because by their views, opinions, campaigning or activism draw people toward them.


It is a new phenomenon in society and we are still coming to terms with its impact. One of its most striking features is that it draws people together into a kind of community of common shared interest who may or may not know each other in person or be linked to each other by the bond of a shared space like a village, suburb or townland. These cyber communities or virtual communities have grown with the development of the Internet so they have been part and parcel of many people’s lives.


However, Covid 19 and the adjustments we have had to make has given things a new twist. Because, in person meetings are not safe and work environments carried risks too, more of our life has gone on line. Even our celebration of Mass and attendance has gone on line also.


We know it is not the same – there is something missing. Nothing substitutes our personal presence to one another. It echoes the Gospel verse from St. John “Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them”. Covid 19 has been and continues to dislocate us. We miss certain bonds of connections that are natural and life-giving.


My friends, I have joined you in celebration this morning to give thanks to God for the service of Bridget Connolly as Sacristan here for a generation.


When Jesus gathered in the upper room, we are told He instructed the disciples to prepare it so He could celebrate the Passover with them. When you gathered here over the last four decades or so your gathering was prepared for by Bridget. Like all of us who sit down to supper we so easily can forget the one who prepared it. To render this service over all these years takes generosity, patience and perseverance. To-day Bridget we acknowledge your generous giving and that of Gerry, RIP and your family.


In requesting the honour of a Benemerenti Medal from the Holy Father Pope Francis – the parish community that you have served so graciously wish to formally recognise your constant and generous presence and service to their families as you prepared and facilitated with the priests and choir for their celebration of the joyous and sad events of life.


When we speak of community in a parish setting, we do so in terms of meeting and gathering in person round the table of the Lord attentive to His invitation to “Do this in memory of

me”. In doing so we are in communion with one another in and through Jesus our Shepherd and Lord. This sacred place needs a community of faithful and faith filled disciples who commit to each other and their families to gather for Mass, the ‘well’ from which we quench our thirst. One of the risks of Covid 19 might be complacency when it comes to our Sunday obligation.


This Gospel speaks of the crowd in pursuit of Jesus, not like on Facebook but in person, they wanted to see and hear Him. We are told “He took pity on them” they were like sheep without a shepherd. In our new context – post Covid – we need leadership, we need good shepherds. Men and women guided by the truth rather than the spin of opinion polls. We need good shepherds in every community. Men and women who will step up to the plate and seek to guide a new generation in service and generosity, in courage and witness. In that sense we are all called to be shepherds to one another in family, in work, in recreation.


Let the spirit of service that we celebrate to-day continue to be nurtured and lived among us.

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