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Fr. Derek Says Farewell
Thursday, June 20th 2019

Extract from Fr. Derek’s Homily 15th June 2019

“Looking back over the twelve years I have ministered here as curate and pastor, it was easy to fall in love with Ashbourne-Donaghmore and make it my home because of the welcoming, dedicated and committed people of this parish.

I was recalling some words I shared at the very beginning of my time here, words from a friend who said every parish needs three things: 

A warm, beautiful church to pray in which inspires and lifts our hearts to God;

Enough money to financially support the parish;

And a good looking priest! 

Thankfully, you have been blessed to have all three! 

A day like today is really about saying thank you. 

First and foremost, I want to thank my family.  Those here in Ashbourne, but also my immediate family in Ratoath: my parents, sisters, brother in law and niece and nephew.  It has been a blessing to be so close to home.  As a priest we spend our whole life ministering to others, but when we go home to family (those lucky enough to still have family), it is they who minister to us – in conversation and listening, in laughter, in mealtimes and in love.

I want to pay tribute to my brother priest, Fr. Ciarán.  He has been a great support.  I want to thank him for the grace of friendship and the privilege of ministering alongside him.  He is a man of prayer and a person of great integrity.  He is faithful to his priesthood and someone with great potential.  I hope I have provided the support he needed as he settled into ministry as a priest, but also the parish of Ashbourne.

I have been blessed to live among terrific neighbours in Brookville, and I want to thank you for your concern, support, encouragement, and kindness.  You not only opened your homes to me, but also your hearts and it has been a privilege to live out my ministry as a priest among you.  I once heard it said that good neighbours are your second family and it is true – thank you. 

After twelve years, I want to thank those whose friendship has proved invaluable over the years.  I firmly believe in God’s providence in bringing people together and I have been blessed to have some amazing friends in Ashbourne.  I want to thank you for the late night suppers, phone calls to touch base, conversations and thankfully much laughter.  As the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, a ‘faithful friend is a sure shelter, there is no measuring their worth.  Thank you for your loyalty and friendship.  By extension, I want to thank the lads I have played football with for almost twelve years.  I am grateful for the normality you brought to an otherwise hectic vocation and pastoral life.  There was never any pretence, but good humour and banter, loyalty, and friendship. 

I want to thank the many groups who quietly work away, embodying Christ in everything they do, the various ways in which they minister and support us and enrich the life of our parish in sharing of themselves to build up and strengthen this community.  I want to thank those whom I worked with on various projects, committees, apostolates, and Councils – I have learned so much from you, your enthusiasm, your vested interest in your parish, your insights, professionalism and skills.  One thing that often strikes me in pastoral planning is we can strive to be a ‘super-parish’ where everything works efficiently the ‘returns’ so to speak are measurable, but in actual fact the greatest gift we have as a parish is our humanity.  That is how we stand out from the rest.  If we lose sight of that, we have lost sight of the Gospel.

As you know, the highpoint for me every day is the Mass.  It is here I fall more and more deeply in love with the Lord.  I want to thank all who enrich our liturgies through music, word, prayer and so many other ministries – we are blessed to have such a rich wealth of talent. 

When I look back over the twelve years in Ashbourne-Donaghmore, my life and priesthood has been enriched so much.  I think especially of the many communities that have come to make Ashbourne your home.  You enrich our lives by your faith, your culture and the importance you place in family and community.  Thank you to the Malayalam, Lithuanian, Polish, Lativan and the many other communities.

Throughout my time here, I am conscious that we have journeyed through difficult times in the life of the Irish Church.  I want to thank you for your steadfast fidelity.  As a pastor and you know me by now when I say this with all sincerity, my greatest heartache and one I spent and still spend much time in prayer about are those who walked away when Jesus needed them most to rebuild, strengthen, to challenge and reform His Church.  I can understand why, but we must continue to pray for healing and for the Holy Spirit to enliven within us all a desire to love.  As Pope Francis, remind us, we need a revolution of tenderness.

I am conscious the book stopped with me when it came to making decisions! That’s the Parish Priest’s job!  I appreciate there may have been decisions made with might not always meet the approval of everyone, but I have always strived to make those decisions through prayer, acting in the best interest of what is a busy parish.  If I had one regret, it would be time, or the lack of it!  I would love to have spent more time talking to people, ministering to them and like the disciples on the road to Emmaus who talked about all that had happened.  It is only in walking with people we get to know them and see the reflection of Christ in them.

I want to thank the many parents who bring their children to Mass every week even when it is a challenge or it is difficult or there is a last minute crisis.  Never stop bringing your children to Mass.  They belong here! They remind us that the Church is alive……that we are alive!

Finally, on a human level, I was devastated to receive the news I would leave Ashbourne.  I always knew I would have to move at some stage, but aspirations for promotion does not sit well with me.  All I wanted to do was serve people in Jesus.  Someone once asked me what do you hope to achieve as a priest during your time in Ashbourne, and I said two things: to be kind and supportive to Fr. Ciarán and to help people fall in love with Jesus.  I hope I have accomplished that in some small way whether it was through the beauty of the liturgy, the celebration of the sacraments, the wonder of the scriptures or the ministry of conversation.

I would be dishonest to say I wasn’t somewhat apprehensive about the new position, but as I said a couple of weeks ago, following Jesus is full of risk and I have come to know that it is in risk and trust that we grow.  We become aware of where God needs us in the world, but also our utter dependency on God. 

Thank you for the privilege of journeying with you.”

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