50th Anniversary ff the
CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES SEAN McDERMOTT STREET
Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11th February 2011
I am particularly pleased to be here with you this evening to celebrate with you the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of this Church. I greet everyone who is with us at this celebration. This Church is a place where the people of this community have gathered over these years to worship and to pray, to mourn and to celebrate.
This Church is a place where Catholic Christians – both Irish and Romanian – gather to worship. But it is also a place where people of different religious backgrounds and none know that they can feel welcome and where we can reflect together on the future of this remarkable Dublin inner-city community. .
Dublin has changed greatly since this Church was opened 50 years ago. Some of you – including myself – will remember the tin Church here. There were a few tin Churches around Dublin in those days and I am told that they even moved from one parish to another when new Churches were built.
I remember well in my early days in Clonliffe College, just after this Church was built, we would walk on Sunday mornings to the Pro-Cathedral through the streets of this parish. They were hard times and there was real poverty and harsh conditions for families.
Today it is hard to remember what the area was like. So many houses had been allowed to run down. It was almost as if the authorities did not care.
Nowadays when passing by the new playground, with its colours and facilities and space, I think of opportunities that children of those days did not have. Today, after many years waiting, the parish has one of the most modern schools in Ireland, with really great teachers.
This parish has been a focal point of much of the progress that has taken place and we wish this evening to thank God for all have contributed to making this parish the place that it is: the priests both diocesan and Salesians of Don Bosco, especially the current Parish Priest, Father Michael Casey. I think of the sisters who have worked in the parish, especially the Daughters of Charity.
But the parish is not just its priests and nuns; there are so many others who have given their time and energy in building up this community in hard times – teachers, social activists, local representatives, and community workers. And there are others who have no specialist title: they built up the community simply by being good neighbours. So many people have helped bring true progress to the lives of the people of this parish.
But the progress has been marked with sadness. Fifty years ago drugs were almost an unknown quantity in Dublin. In more recent times, so many lives of good young people – young people we loved and knew were full of hope – have been taken by the unscrupulous exploitation of their lives through drugs. How many times this Church has been filled with the tears of the community as some of its most promising young lives ended abruptly and tragically in drug related deaths.
This Church has witnessed moments of sadness and indeed of deep sadness, but these have been outweighed by the many things that have kept this community alive and together in good times and in bad. There are great families in this parish, parents who do everything they can for their children. The parents of this parish have the same dreams as parents anywhere: that their children will grow up safe and healthy, that they will get on in life with a good job and with a family of their own and in turn be good citizens and good neighbours. There have been many success stories and there are many occasions when parents of this parish have rightfully been so proud of their children in what they have attained.
There are great women in this parish, mothers and grandmothers, who when things went wrong kept families together and worked without blowing any trumpets to generate a sense of solidarity and help for the less fortunate. Inner city Dublin has a great history of people looking after one another, especially when times are hard. That goodness springs up naturally; it would be a tragedy if we were to loose that sense of good Dublin values.
Those same women were often very courageous in speaking out against wrongdoing and in speaking out so that everyone could get the entitlements which were theirs and to see their rights were respected.
“Live a life worthy of your calling”, our first reading reminds us. It sets out in what way we should work to realise a caring community, united in common purpose. It says: “Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all to preserve the unity of spirit by the peace that binds you together”. This has been the challenge that this parish community has faced head-on over the years and it will be its challenge for the years to come. There is a growing individualism in our society; people can be tempted to go it alone and just think of themselves. Building community is never easy, but when it works it is one of the great contributions we make to society. The people that in the long term we remember and hold in respect are those who have worked to build up community. The names of those who destroy and breakdown community may well remain in our memories, but without that sense of respect and affection that really endures.
When Jesus comes into our lives, then many things undergo a radical transformation. Like the rich new wine of today’s Gospel about the wedding feast, Jesus brings us something which goes beyond what we had experienced before, something more fulfilling than any life’s plan that we could have manufactured by our own means.
The Christian faith is a religion of joy and not a religion which entraps us in the reality of our sinfulness. Jesus wants to free us from our sins and lead to a deeper and richer life. He wants us to experience that new life and new faith which we encounter in Jesus Christ in the context of a celebration. The message of the Wedding Feast teaches us that that fullness of light and grace and truth appears only in the context of the Church.
We look back over 50 years. But above all we look forward to the future. The next fifty years will bring even greater and more rapid change than the fifty years we celebrate this evening. The future however is not something imposed on us: it is something we can shape in accordance to what we know is good and generous. This community has shown that it has extraordinary resources of goodness and caring and courage in the past. It has the resources and the goodness to ensure that our future will be one of goodness and hope.