A Parish Celebration – December 1996

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Nuns home for the 15th August – Lady’s Day

Lady’s Day, August 15th is a special day which people and tradition have honoured down the years. People from the parish all over Ireland and from many parts of the world touch “parish roots” with family and friends to celebrate the local feast day at Lady’s Well and enjoy the Athenry Festival which it a unique and colourful event. This year, it is estimated that over 5,000 people would have visited The Well on Lady’s Day.

But what marked this year in a memorable way was the Re-Union of Priests and Religious from the parish for the week-end. Forty-eight religious and priests were present with Archbishop Neary presiding and the Church was crowded for the 11.30 Mass on Sunday, August 18th, 1996. It was a great experience for all to celebrate the Eucharist together with family, friends and visitors. It brought home to all the unique contribution the Athenry parish has made to the world-wide Church. Letters from The President, Mary Robinson and An Taoiseach, John Bruton expressed good wishes for the Re-Union. It was a gesture that was appreciated.

Representing, 91 religious and priests in 26 different countries, Msgr. Michael Glynn who was celebrating his Golden Jubilee was the principal celebrant of the Mass. He was assisted by Fr. Bemard Duffy also a Golden Jubilarian and Fr. Mark Fitzsimon who was ordained 49 years ago. The theme of the Liturgy was “A Prophet to the Nations” and the Prayers of the Faithful were read in nine different languages representing many of the areas around the world where the participants were serving. The Athenry Choir added its own unique contribution to a beautiful liturgy.

It was a day when the parish of Athenry was celebrating what was at the heart of a living faith and life in a Christian community because every parish and every local church is called to mission.

Looking at the 48, who came home, standing in the Sanctuary for a photo, it was a picture of over 1,500 years of missionary service to world-wide church from one parish. It was a day when the parish was celebrating what is so authentic to what Gospel news is about. Their vision of Church was not bounded within roads and streams – from Coldwood to Cuddoo and from Coshla to Connacoo. If it were, it would be a very impoverished vision of Church. That was not the way they saw it. Their work and their witness has created a bridge between Athenry and all the continents. And their presence reminded us all that the Fields of Athenry is sung, ten thousand miles from home!

It was not itchy feet to wander, nor a mild dose of curiosity, nor a mere coincidence that gave them the push to devote their lives to God. It was the prayer of families and their devotion to the Mass. It was the meitheal and muintearas of neighbours; it was the goodness and unselfishness of ordinary people; it was the vibrant community spirit of parish that gave them all the pull to go out. And it was within all that and a lot more that God called them. It was a day to say thanks to God and to them for all that has been in our parish.

It is important to remember over 40 others who could not be with us because of health or other commitments. I received letters from many of them assuring us all that they would be with us in spirit. From Perth to Peru, Amsterdam to West Africa, they were all remembered and we hope that many of them will be able to join us for the next Re-Union which will take place on Sunday, August 9th 1998. A more simple celebration it will be as we build up to a major event for the year 2000. All of that is in God’s hands, it is true, but what has taken place could never have happened but for the inspiration and energy of Msgr. Michael Higgins, San Diego. He did an extraordinary amount of work to make it all possible. We are all indebted to him and the many people who helped him. As also we are deeply grateful to Peadar Monaghan, Tysaxon, Athenry, who made a video and if you want to capture the spirit of the whole event, make contact with him.

A Re-Union, like this one, stirs something in a community. It makes us reflect and take stock. It is the invitation to continue to share our faith in a new age. It arouses us to listen to the Lord’s call. Who will replace the 91 around the world? That is the challenge. It is God ultimately that calls, but he calls through us. It is through the inspiration and example of a living faith in homes and families and neighbours throughout this parish that he reaches the hearts of the young. Our young are gifts. They are very precious but so often we are reminded these days, they are not possessions. To listen and answer Lord’s call. they need our goodwill and encouragement. A day like August 18th. ’96 is an invitation and challenge to all of us to respond.

And with God’s help. we will.

Fr. Tony King

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About this record

Written by Tony King

Published here 12 Jan 2023 and originally published December 1996

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