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Text of John Purcell’s Speech at Fr Joe’s Farewell

Good evening everybody,

 For those of you who may not know me, I am John Purcell Chairman of the Parish Finance Committee and I would like to add my own ‘cúpla focail’ to Jackie Ryan’s fine words of tribute to Fr Joe at the Mass of Thanksgiving earlier.

 It is wonderful to see so many parishioners here, joining in this farewell celebration. The credit for organizing tonight’s event rests with Jackie Ryan, Jackie Hearne, Cepta Lyons and Monica Byrne. Many thanks, ladies from all of us.

 For the avoidance of doubt, I suppose I should clarify that we are not, and I repeat not, here to celebrate Fr Joe’s departure but rather we are here to show our appreciation for his massive contribution to the spiritual well being of our parish and to recognize his splendid efforts in ensuring that the fabric of our church building has been maintained over the past nine years.

 here was some suggestion that my few words tonight might be in the form of a roasting ‘American TV Style’  but in view of the importance of the occasion I thought it wiser to leave the roasting to the chefs in the kitchen who have responded by providing us with such a delicious meal.  Surely the chefs and waiting staff of Milltown Golf Club deserve a mark of our appreciation!

 I came to live in Rathgar in 1980. At that time the venerable Monsignor John Moloney was the Parish Priest. The Mons was succeeded in 1991 in that role by Fr Paddy Dowling and, in turn, Fr Dowling was succeeded by Fr Paul Lavelle in 2001. I wish to acknowledge that the parishioners of Three Patrons have been very fortunate in the individual ministries as parish priest of these three men. Each of them made his own distinctive contribution, according to their different interests and talents.

 When I first became a parishioner, I must confess that I was, like so many others, in awe of the Monsignor and, subsequently, I never really got to know his successors on a personal level. However, this distancing of myself changed when Fr Joe arrived as our new Parish Priest in the autumn of 2010.

 My first observation was, and probably because he is almost a generation my junior, that Fr Joe seemed too young to have been appointed as parish priest of Three Patrons. My next surprise was to observe his informal style of engaging with all parishioners, mainly previously unknown to him.

If these two impressions/observations were a surprise, I was certainly not expecting, as somebody conservative by nature, to encounter one sunny day, our new parish priest in his full cycling gear, shorts and all, ready to head off to the Phoenix Park for a spin on his bike.

 Time moved on and then, somehow, about six years ago, I ended up being ‘volunteered’ by Fr Joe to take over the role of Chairman of the Parish Finance Committee. There may be others here who can relate to that experience!

 Through the Parish Finance Committee I have had the opportunity of gaining, at first hand, a much deeper appreciation of the many different obligations, tasks, demands and sometimes serious emotional difficulties that govern the lives of every Parish Priest, issues which Fr Joe faces on a daily basis.

 I have come to recognise how parish priests are required to be blessed ‘in spades’ in their daily ministry with qualities of spirituality, compassion and generosity and, along the way, are expected, somehow, to acquire the management skills necessary to run and fund a small-to-medium sized business. And to address this last challenge without a guaranteed income!

 Sometimes celebrated psychologists define human behavior in terms of two extremes ranging from ‘dreamers’ at one extreme to ‘doers’ at the other. Virtually nobody lives their whole lives at either extreme and most of us would be classified as playing out our lives somewhere in between.

 From my unqualified point of observation, I would consider that Fr Joe defies the above definition as he has a fertile brain which is constantly creating visions of improvements of all sorts that might be made, as well as possessing, in boundless quantities, energy, drive and resolve to implement his visions by drawing on his own unique can-do/will-do attitude.

 As a consequence, it will come as no surprise if I tell you that, as Chairman of the Committee tasked with overseeing the prudent application of our parish funds, Fr Joe and I do not always agree on the optimum way forward but over the years, both of us have learned how to compromise without ever having the need of a cross word between us. Accordingly, and with sincere honesty, I can say that it has been a pleasure and a most enjoyable experience for me and for all the members of the Parish Finance Committee to have been able to support Fr Joe in his stewardship of our parish finances.

 Before finishing, I feel I should share with you other sides of his personality that normal contact from the altar with parishioners does not allow Fr Joe to convey.  The easiest way of doing so is to refer to an event last year when Fr Joe took on the onerous task of Spiritual Director of the Rathgar Parish Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Those of us fortunate to have been part of that group had our experience enhanced by a virtuoso display of the full gamut of Fr Joe’s emotions and talents, which are captured in the following cameos:

 

  • His REVERENCE in celebrating mass on a hillside in the beautiful landscaped Gardens of the Beatitudes.
  • His SHEER DELIGHT on the banks of the River Jordan as we observed together an adjacent  group of African pilgrims in full regalia renewing their baptismal vows singing and even dancing as they went through total immersion.
  • His ABILITY TO CREATE magical moments of silent meditation as we all sat motionless under warm hazy sunshine on a becalmed boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee.
  • His DETERMINATION that our intrepid group of Irish pilgrims would succeed in following the Way of the Cross, with each of us taking turns in carrying a large cross along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem through tourist-filled streets. (it did not seem at the time as difficult a task as it now sounds!).
  • And finally, his MISCHIEVOUS SENSE OF HUMOUR as, first of all, he took photographs of his fellow travellers ‘bathing’ in the Dead Sea (if that is the appropriate description for entering those salt-laden waters) and then,  later on, as we enjoyed ice creams on the shore.

We will all miss Fr Joe for these special traits and for so many other reasons now that he has completed his period of ministry of Three Patrons Parish. We wish him well and hope that he will come back to visit us, as he will always be welcome.

At the Mass of Thanksgiving earlier Jackie Ryan, Chairperson of our Pastoral Council, presented Fr Joe with a token of appreciation from the parishioners of Rathgar Parish and, for those of you who may not have been available to attend the mass, I call on Jackie to re-present that token to Fr Joe.

 Let us now be upstanding to show our appreciation of Fr Joe!

John Purcell – September 21st 2019

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