29th Sunday of the Year 2013 REFURBISHMENT OF THE CHURCH OF SAINT AGNES, CRUMLIN, AND DEDICATION OF THE NEW ALTAR
Homily Notes of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Church of Saint Agnes, Crumlin, 19th October 2013
“This is a great occasion for the Parish of Saint Agnes in Crumlin and indeed for the entire local community. We gather to bless this Church after its refurbishment and to dedicate the new altar, which is the centre of the Church. At this new moment in the history of this parish community we re-commit and rededicate our own lives to live our faith more fully.
Crumlin played a significant role in the recent history of our city and of our diocese. The history and the faith-history of Crumlin goes back many centuries, but it is above all over the past eighty years or so that this community grew in its modern history. It was one of the first developments of the city after national independence, as people moved from the inner city to what were spacious and well-planned new housing estates.
Everything was on a large scale. There were great schools which were among the largest in Europe. There was a great emphasis on education so that the children would have new opportunity. Even Our Lady Children’s Hospital, in the thought of Archbishop Byrne whose idea it originally was, was designed to ensure that the children of this new area would have access to the best child-care.
Archbishop Byrne had been Curate in the Pro-Cathedral for seventeen years before becoming Archbishop in 1920 and he had witnessed the harsh poverty of inert city Dublin. He had also been a witness to the eventful years of the fight for Irish independence and wished that the new independent Ireland would invest in its people and give them a better future.
This Church building goes back to the nineteen thirties and it has undergone extension and renewal at various stages as the population grew and later to meet the needs of the changed liturgy after the Second Vatican Council. Originally part of Rathfarnham Parish and then Terenure, Crumlin became a real mother Church for a range of new and expanding areas of the city. From Crumlin, the Parishes of Walkinstown, Greenhills and also Kimmage Manor developed and their new Churches were built through the contributions and the generosity of the mother parish and the people of Crumlin.
Around this Church building a spirit of community emerged. The Church was constructed by the generosity of the people of poorer times and it became the place where the fundamental values of the community were formed.
The true wealth of Crumlin is its people. When I listened to the Gospel reading of this Mass about being constant and determined in prayer and in the Christian life, I felt that this was very much a description of the reality that was lived out in this community. The woman in the Gospel encountered difficulties precisely because the person whose task it was to respect her rights decided to be inattentive. She had every reason to simply give up and accept that she was never going to attain what she dreamed of and had a right to. This community in Crumlin was build up by families which had to face many challenges. Their faith in God, however, gave them the determination, despite so many obstacles, to do everything they could to give their children an opportunity which they had never had and to build up a community marked by sense of solidarity and care for each other.
Many of you present here this evening are already the grandchildren or even great-grandchildren of those who would have been at the original opening of this Church in 1935. You know at first hand the values and the care, the sacrifices and the ambitions which your grandparents and their neighbours put into ensuring that you would be where you are today.
I was fascinated to read on the parish website – and I congratulate those who keep it up to date – of the parish survey that was conducted some time ago by the Parish Pastoral Council. It contains a wealth of information and opinions on the life of the parish. High points were given to the commitment of the priests of the parish. Crumlin has had a long history of great priests for which we thank God and we wish every blessing on the current priests and those who today work with them.
One dominant result of the survey was the need to reach out to young people. Today is Mission Sunday and we pray especially for those Irish men and women who work in bringing the Gospel to various parts of the world. We also need a new sense of mission to our young people at home. You know well, looking at your own children and grandchildren, just how generous and idealistic our young people are, even if they rarely come to Church. We have to find new ways to transmit to them something which has been so important in our lives: that sense of faith which is at the root of all our values.
I was surprised to find a photo of myself on the parish website, with some of the young people of this area who attended World Youth Day in Brazil early this year. Transmitting the faith to young people today means that young people themselves must become leaders and I encourage those committed young people who were at World Youth Day to be active in parish life in new ways.
The woman of today’s Gospel was a woman of prayer. Prayer gave her courage to keep going in her life. It is not that prayer is about pestering God with our needs. It is about entering into communion with God, in such a way that we understand what God asks of us. It means opening to communion with God and finding new ways in which we can bring that sense of communion to our Church and from there into the wider community. Prayer is never just thinking about ourselves.
I noticed also in the parish survey, the very high rating that was assigned to this parish being a welcoming parish. As we now come to dedicate the new altar of the Church we commit ourselves to ensure that this beautifully refurbished Church and the community which grows up around it will always be a place of welcome for those who seek God, for those who are troubled and seek something deeper in their lives, for those who feel abandoned and lonely, for young people who seek meaning and hope in a world which is not always friendly towards them and their fundamental needs.
The altar is the place from which we receive spiritual nourishment as we unite ourselves with the sacrifice of Jesus who gave himself for us. It is from him that we learn the importance of overcoming obsession with our own interests and remember that it was the generosity and sacrifice of the past generations who worshipped in this Church that had made this community what it is today.
Times have changed and this refurbished Church constitutes as I said a new sense of beginning and hope for the future. The rite of the dedication of an altar is among the most complex of the ceremonies of the liturgy. The altar is blessed, is anointed with oils and is incensed as through prayer we dedicate it to be exclusively a place of prayer and worship, a truly sacred space and a real sign of the presence of God among us.
“As I dedicate this altar and this refurbished Church, I consign it in trust to you, the community of this parish. I know that you will care for it. I pray that this Church will be you the place where the community encounters the presence of Jesus, who reveals God’s love to you, especially at those most important moments of your lives: at baptisms and weddings and funerals and as you encounter God’s mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation. May this refurbished Church be above all a place of prayer, where through the celebration of the Eucharist you experience the saving presence of Jesus in your lives and among our lives together.