Whitehall Golden Jubilee
Posted on 3rd April 2009 at 22:31
Written by Administrator
"Fr John and Fr Michael on the occasion of his farewell mass and Fr Michael’s induction as ADM on Saturday 26th August 2006."
After completing the prescribed nine-year term as parish priest in the parish of the Holy Child, Larkhill/Whitehall, I knew that, when I was leaving, I was marked for life! I am now resigned to the fact that there is no hope of recovery. I will never be the same again!
I believe that priests who have served there before me are all in the same predicament! But, let me hasten to add, these are marks which we all proudly wear as badges of honour – insignia with designs woven from the threads of wonderful experiences, warm relationships and happy memories.
I am, personally, deeply indebted to so many parishioners of Larkhill/Whitehall – and not forgetting Santry! - for their inspiring Christian witness and for their supportive affirmation to me in my ministry with them.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 April 2009 11:44 )
We’ll begin at the beginning!
The then Archbishop, later Cardinal, Connell asked, through his Secretary, to see me one Saturday morning in May of 1997. It was not unusual to get a Saturday morning call from him to come and to go over issues related to my work at the time. This time, I was told, that no files were needed. And the penny didn’t drop with me!
Arriving in his office, I thought that I should open with a gentle remark about the good weather – in the circumstances, it is the sort of done thing, you know! His Grace, however, was in business mode. “Would you oblige me by accepting the post of Parish Priest of Larkhill/Whitehall?” he asked. Always inclined to oblige my Archbishop, I replied “Yes” without any hesitation. And that was it, really. For then that is…
Back in Westland Row, reality set in. What had I done? I only once in my lifetime had ever set foot in the Church of the Holy Child and that was for the sad occasion of the funeral service for Fr. Declan Connolly with whom I had been sharing a house, at the time, in High St. It was time to seek solace from Fr. Joe Kelly, whom I was to succeed as Parish Priest, and to hear from him, first hand, what might be ahead of me. He was very welcoming. He assured me that I would be happy in Whitehall and he invited me to lunch.
As to parish life in Whitehall, who was who and what was what, he gently told me that it would be best if I took time to find it all out for myself. There was great wisdom in that advice - even if I did not quite see it as such at the time.
Everybody I met during my meanderings about the parish, before I was officially installed by Bishop Jim Moriarty, told me that I would be put on the straight and narrow by the highly respected and long-serving parish Secretary, Ms Winnie Gannon. She was at the time absent on sick leave.
With each passing day the prospect of meeting Ms Winnie Gannon grew with new importance and with apprehension! I met her for the first time when she emerged for the installation ceremony and I instantly recognised that I had, at last, met my match!
During the installation ceremony, I said that I believed that I was a lucky man to have been appointed to Larkhill/Whitehall as Parish Priest. Now that my term has passed, I can confidently say that these proved to be truly prophetic words!
I should also recall that for that ceremony the well loved Mrs Maura McDyer, who had been the parish organist for many years and taught music in the school, played for her last time in the church. She became ill on the following morning as she prepared to play for the 10.00 Mass. Sadly, she was never able to return. Her son, Rory, took over and ever since has done her proud.
With the supportive collaboration of Frs. Pat Farnan, Dermot Nestor and Aidan Kieran, we set about our parish ministry. The first year was, for me, a learning curve.
A feature of the parish, which I shortly discovered, was the long established faith commitment of so many people, nourished by their active participation in the liturgy, supported by their community action and encouraged by the forward-looking leadership of the energetic priests who served before us in the parish down the years. I knew that it was my task now to build upon and to develop further this rich legacy and to try to do so in times which had become somewhat trying for the church and disturbing for the faithful.
Looking back now over the nine years, I think that I can justifiably say that, together, we achieved a great deal. It began with the little group which met so frequently to produce Parish 2000 (a handbook for our parish organisation and renewal); our Parish Day (which was interrupted by the intrusion of the building of the Port Tunnel); the building of our parish Centre; the installation of the Amplification System and the Loop System for the hard-of-hearing and the purchase of the Last Supper painting.
The achievements we made together in the area of Faith and Ministry were probably more important. These included the Junior choir, the Bethany Support Team, The Faith Development Team and the three year course in Faith Education. The annual parish holidays, (which, for reasons of propriety, we called pilgrimages!) became calendar features. The list was impressive and included The Holy Land, Rome (several times), Poland, Lake Garda, Tuscany and Lake Maggiore.
[Rev. Diarmuid Martin] I cannot forget the magnificent dedication to care given by those who operated the Parish Social Services, especially the Meals-on-Wheels service to the housebound. The secret of their success for well over thirty years lay in dedicated helpers and inspired leadership, something we tried to acknowledge by conferring the Bene Merente Papal Award on the late Mr. Richard Scully, a founder member and, together with his wife, Anna, was a driving inspiration.
It was a great sadness for us all when Mrs. Maura Cassin became ill and died in December last. May she rest in peace. She was an inspirational leader and worker for the Social Services Centre since its beginning and was fully active right up to the day she entered hospital.
I also remember, in admiration, the group of people who maintained Blessed Margaret Ball Chapel as a warm and welcoming place of worship.
The Parish has a superb Property and Finance Council and Parish Pastoral Council, each with gifted Chairpersons.
And, now, back to where we began – the Parish Office, Winnie’s preserve! She gave 52 years of dedicated service to the Parish and to generations of priests. I want to record my warm gratitude to Winnie for the special support she gave me, for the friendship she showed me and for her many acts of personal kindness. She too, was awarded the Papal Honour and was able to indicate her appreciation when she received it during her final illness.
The parish office has preserved its pivotal place in the parish and all because of the dedication and professionalism of the new incumbent, Anne Flanagan. I wish her every success with the special task of editing this Jubilee Book and the extra busy workload needed for the Golden Jubilee celebrations. The right person is in the right place at the right time!
I would love to list the names of the scores of people, scores and scores, who made the Parish so proverbially lively and special and who are so unfailingly loving of their priests, regardless of our individual strengths or weaknesses.
May I finish with a very heartfelt thanks to Frs.Michael Carey, Tom Kearney and Aidan D’Arcy, and Sr. May Dolan. They were the best colleagues any P.P. could have or wish to have. I wish Fr. Michael every success and happiness as he takes over the reins for the next stage of the life-journey of the parish.
Truly, I can say, “it was good to have been there, if only for a minute, as the swallows light on the road”!
Fr. John Fitzpatrick
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 April 2009 11:44 )
Tagged as: Jubilee
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