The Mass in Thanksgiving for the Christian Service of Therese O’Donoghue on the occasion of her Retirement as Parish Secretary – Sunday, 3rd April 2022
Good afternoon, everyone. When the head of the household was completing the Census at lunchtime today, he asked me my profession. I replied “I am now officially retired!”
Welcome, and thank you for coming today, to participate in my Farewell Mass, and to encourage me, as I retire, and embark upon the next chapter of my life.
I am delighted that Fr. Cormac has returned to the parish to concelebrate this Mass of Thanksgiving with Fr. Gerry, the Principal Celebrant. Fr. Cormac was Parish Administrator for six years, prior to Fr. Gerry and we have remained in contact. I also welcome Fr. Anastasius, who is living in the parish while he completes further studies in hospital chaplaincy. He refers to me as his “Irish Mammy” since I gave him warm socks for Christmas!
I welcome the members of the religious orders, especially my good friends in the Convent of Mercy. I warmly welcome Ms. Siobhan Hanly, Principal of Our Lady of Mercy Convent School and Mr. Scully, Principal of St. Mary’s Boys’ National School, who is watching on the webcam. I sincerely thank both the principals for attending 10 o’clock Mass here on Thursday with a representative group of pupils who sang, and who read the Prayer of the Faithful. It was a lovely occasion, and I very much appreciated their involvement and presentation afterwards.
I am delighted that 4 generations of my family are present, my dad, Noel, my husband, Paul, the children, Eoin & Niamh who are in Ireland, Aoife, on the livestream from Kent & Ciaran on livestream from Arizona – Ciaran, we will see you on Tuesday in Phoenix! I also welcome some of my siblings, including Colm on livestream from Tenerife and my extended family and friends.
There are others joining on the webcam who cannot be here today, including Marion Simpson, Chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council, and parishioners who would like to attend but who are looking after loved ones at home. I send special greetings to them as they perform their important caring role.
I extend my sincere gratitude to all those who were involved in planning today’s liturgy. I know the preparatory work that goes on during the weeks leading up to a special celebration. For once, I was not allowed to know what plans were being made, nor informed about the clandestine meetings taking place. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to plan any special liturgy that takes place. Celebrations are good for the morale or spirit of the parish, and we have not had such gatherings since the Blessing of the Pastoral Centre on 3rd March 2020.
I am sincerely grateful to my great colleagues, Adrienne and Fr. Gerry for their understanding and their kindness over the past few weeks, as I nervously approached this day, with mixed emotions of happiness, sadness, apprehension, and a good deal of nostalgia, as I reflected on 22 years in the Parish Office.
As the Psalm says: “How Can I repay the Lord for his goodness to Me?”
I love people and I have enjoyed coming to work for 22 years! That is a privilege in itself – many people are not so fortunate.
I have thought about Monsignor Conway over these past few weeks prior to retirement, as it was he who asked me to be the Parish Secretary in 2000, when our youngest child started school. I can still hear him asking his question that day: ………..” and what are you going to do with yourself, Therese, now that Niamh has started school? What could I say? The Holy Spirit was at work, although I did not realize it! That was “a call” – a prompt to follow my instinct and to respond Yes! It was a leap of Faith I have never regretted.
My work in the Parish Office could not have been managed without the support of the many committed volunteers, whom this parish is blessed to have, and without whom it could not function. Some of them have had a very busy day already, as they were involved in the Synod gatherings here this morning.
A few weeks ago, on RTE radio, a person was interviewed who led the team of volunteers in the Citywest Vaccination Centre. He said that volunteering for this role was probably the most rewarding experience of his life. He spoke about the great spirit of the volunteers, their solidarity, their camaraderie, the team spirit, and the duty of care and friendship that they felt towards one another. We can say the same is true of our parish.
Very soon, with one priest resident in this parish, if we are lucky, we will need more volunteers, if the parish is to continue to function smoothly, and as a Community of Faith. The Parish Council plan to have a volunteering weekend sometime after Easter, when I, myself, hope to join the parish Baptism Team. I cannot complete my words of appreciation without reference to Monsignor. He had a difficult time during Covid as he was ill and, like all of us, he experienced the fear of the unknown in those early days of lockdown. He died in August 2020, and his funeral could not be celebrated as it should have been. We did not have an opportunity to grieve as a parish community.
When Monsignor retired, I gave him 4 volumes of photographs I had taken in the parish throughout the years 2000 – 2012. After his death, his sister, Patsy, returned the photo albums to me and we would like them to be safely retained in the parish.
These photographs capture a moment of time in the parish; it is lovely to look back through the albums, to reminisce and to see familiar and beloved people, many of whom are no longer with us. The volumes will be in the parish Café so that people can look through them, and chat, over Thursday morning coffee, about times past. You will see many familiar faces and agree t hat none of us has changed at all! We still look the same!
Finally, thank you for your love and your friendship. We will continue to encounter one another around the parish, and I look forward to that. For those of you who plan to go to the Talbot Stillorgan Hotel, I look forward to meeting you there, and for those who are not comfortable to be in a function room at present, I completely understand.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce my successor, Anne Hennessy. I wish her well for the future and I hope that she will be as happy in the Parish Office as I have been.