Below is the text of the homily preached by Bishop Brendan Kelly in St Ceslus’ Church, Kilkelly on Monday August 6th.
The old church that stood here was opened on 8 December 1872. The last mass was celebrated in that old church on 22 May 1960. Less than two years later, this church was opened and dedicated by Bishop Fergus on 12 January 1962. 50 years ago!
It cost, according to the “Western People”, £33,000. That would represent over a million, Fr. John tells me, in today’s money. The people at that time spent 6 years collecting that money. They went all over the country doing so. And to the Emigrant community in Britain and the U.S.
In his sermon at the opening, Bishop Fergus thanked “in a special way the people of Kilkelly district and their friends far and near for having contributed out of their slender means the money needed for the erection of the church. No praise would be too high for their great generosity, “ he said, “and their zeal for the beauty of God’s house.”
Clearly, that zeal for the beauty of this house lives on today, as we see how lovely the whole place is, and how well cared for.
And that wonderful tradition of care for the church and for the liturgies celebrated here is represented most especially in the person of Paddy Niland who has been the faithful, loyal sacristan here during all those 50 years.
Why in 1957-1962 did the people of Kilkelly build this church?
Why would any community do so? I think it is vital that we ponder this question today… In the first place, these people “of slender means” as Bishop Fergus described them, clearly considered that a sturdy, appropriate place of worship was essential for this community. And not just for themselves, but for the generations who would come after them. The replacement of a building considered beyond repair – no matter what the cost, was not just for their own sakes, but for their children and their children’s children. This building represented for them a heritage so precious that it had to be handed on – the faith was their most precious possession and to pass it on, they were willing to pay whatever the cost. That fact emerges very clearly in Bishop Fergus’ sermon at the dedication when he emphasises how important a “sound knowledge of the truths of the faith was especially for anyone whose lot is to have to emigrate to foreign lands.”
In our own day, these “foreign lands” and cultures, in a sense, have come to us as much as we are going to them- and in 2012 – the real question for us and all our communities and households is how can we ensure the treasure of those truths of our faith is not lost to the new generations and those who will come after us.
Another reason why we build and maintain a church amongst us is because it is here we discover who we really are, as individuals and all together.
As individuals – here we are baptised. 320 baptisms have taken place here since 1962 – baptised into Jesus Christ – become members of God’s People. And later on confirmed as such – 665 Confirmations have taken place here in the last 50 years.
The voice of the Father speaking from the cloud at the Transfiguration proclaimed: “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him!” That voice had already spoken from the cloud at Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, and had declared the same truth about him: “This is my Son the Beloved! My favour rests on him.”
Many of you were similarly baptised – not in the River Jordan, but here in this very church – and the voice of the Father we believe at every baptism is still proclaiming that fundamental truth about each one of us that Jesus revealed to us, and it is this: “You are my beloved son or daughter, my favour rests on you!” There is so much more to you than meets the eye, as it were.
We cannot say we believe in God if we do not believe in those who are his children, each one of them. And then – here too – you were confirmed, many of you. It is a renewal of Baptism, an acceptance by the person of that Baptism: that I am a Child of God. But now too I accept and am confirmed as one who will live as a Child of God, and proclaim by the life I live, as Jesus did, the truths of the faith.
Confirmation then is a moment when, as at the Transfiguration, the voice of the Father proclaims, “Your are my son/daughter, the beloved,” but adds for all of us: “listen to him/her.” The church is the place where we are those affirmed and renewed constantly in our identity as disciples of Jesus, children of God like Him, but also as Apostles: People who will proclaim His truth and the Good News to the world – like Peter, James, and John.
I think all of us who love and appreciate our church as you do, and celebrate its existence amongst us, know that it is such an important place, because it reminds us and renews us in those fundamental truths about ourselves: as individuals and as a community. For the church, too, Teach Dé is also Teach an Phobal – the house in which we become a people, a community, a Holy Communion, in Christ. One with each other because one with Him.
And if it is the place where we celebrate Baptism and Confirmation – it is even more and above all else the place where we are made into a community in the deepest sense in the celebration of the Eucharist: the great mystery of our faith – the memorial of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection – when we receive His body given for us, His Blood poured out for us, the Bread of Life!
It is the place furthermore where we can return to this community and to Christ, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the place where the door is always open to the one who has strayed, to the sinner… all of us, in other words, without exception. It is the house of peace, and healing for us, where we are restored, to ourselves, to God and to our community.
It is so good, then, to be celebrating this Jubilee of the Church on the Feast of the Transfiguration! For surely, the church exists to be a place of transformation, where all may enter, all are equal, and all of us are restored.
We celebrate this Feast 40 days before the celebration of the Triumph of the Holy Cross on September 14. The reason Jesus gave Peter, James, and John sight of himself in his glory, the real truth about himself, which we share as members of him, was so that they would not be scandalised by the cross, by the utter defeat and seeming failure that the crucifixion represented. Suffering is the great challenge in all our lives: the fact that life can be so unfair, meaningless, burdensome and bewildering and full of pain.
But we build a church. We make it beautiful. We set it on high for all to see and from where it can invite all. We gather together within it in support of each other. In other words, a church is a place where we can get a small glimpse, please God, of the Heaven – the triumph over sin and sorrow and pain – that lies ahead most surely for all of us.
So may God bless you for minding this building so well, and for decorating it, and celebrating it today. It stands as a reminder to you of all that St. Paul tells us about ourselves in the 2nd Reading: “Didn’t you realise you were God’s Temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anyone should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred, and you are that temple!”
And it reminds us too, because of its decoration, and architecture, and its furnishings, of the Glory of God, and of his home in heaven – all that the Apostles glimpsed momentarily on Mount Tabor. “There he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white,” and Elijah and Moses and the Angels and Saints of God were with them. The heavens were opened to them and all that lies ahead for all of us. No wonder we are a People of Hope – undying hope – like your people before you, who built this church, and who today are, without a doubt, rejoicing and very much with us as we gather giving thanks to God!