25th Anniversary of the Opening of the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle, Laurel Lodge/Carpenterstown 10 June 2018
“Yesterday evening I celebrated Mass for the 75th anniversary of the Parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Drimnagh. This afternoon we celebrate the 25th of the opening of this Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle, here in Laurel Lodge/Carpenterstown
Two celebrations of events fifty years each from the other. There is a particular link between the celebrations. Both are linked with different moments of time in the ongoing demographic change in Dublin and with the search for building community within the anonymity of change. Dublin grows and Dublin changes, just as this parish community gowns and continues to change.
Your Church did not grow out of nothing. For eleven years, the people who came to this new area worshipped in the modest conditions of a Prefab Church. People, though not well off, wanted something more noble.
I was interested to note the level of family and community support that right from the start was brought to the project under the guidance of Father Eugene Kennedy who must be very happy to be with us today on the occasion of this Jubilee. Together with him, I greet the various priests who have ministered in the parish over the years. I think I can honestly say that all the priests who worked in this parish felt particularly fulfilled in their ministry here. This is a very special parish.
I was particularly interested to note that the first sod of the site of the Church was turned by two families from the parish. On this anniversary year, we will celebrate here in Dublin the World Meeting of Families with the presence of Pope Francis. Families kept this parish alive in its mission of support and of passing on the faith from one generation to the next. I think that I can say that one of the reasons why the priests who ministered in this parish felt fulfilled was because of the welcome and support they received from families.
This is a very special parish in that it has one of the highest percentage of Mass attendance in the diocese. It tells us something of the strength of the faith community in this area and of the level of cooperation between families and parish.
Families transmit the faith. Family is about love, no matter how imperfect and failing: it is about a love that enriches lives. I am thinking about the love of spouses, the love of parents for children, the goodness with which families enrich communities. We have great families who would never think of themselves as great: they simply do their best. We must do more to support families in their mission and especially families who encounter difficulties.
The Gospel reading we have just heart speaks about vines. We know very little about vines. To understand what Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel, we have to look more closely into something about which we know little.
The first thing to remember is that vines are very delicate and fragile plants. It takes years after planting before they begin to produce any fruit at all. Damage done to a vine – even in a matter of a few hours – can set back the patient work of years. A surprising hailstorm can in minutes destroy an entire year’s harvest.
Vines are delicate plants and require much patient attention. That is why Jesus used the image of the vinedresser to explain to the population of his time the loving care of God for his people. God is careful and attentive with his people and he wishes them to flourish with the best fruit. God cares for us and wishes us to have a full and fulfilling life.
Vines are delicate plants. It is not just that they can be damaged easily; they require constant, vigilant attention as not all the branches will produce the same good quality fruit. The plant has to be pruned and watched to see that each branch produces the very best fruit possible.
A person like myself who has grown up in the city does not really understand pruning. We tend to look on the process of pruning a tree by looking at the end result. The tree looks bare after many of its branches have been cut away and destroyed. A city person like me does not quite realise that the purpose of pruning is not to cut back, but to allow what is best to survive, flourish, and receive the nourishment that will allow it to grow to its natural fullness.
Being a Christian means that we bear fruit. There is no such thing as a passive Christian, just parked there not having any sense of direction or purpose. Our faith is not something static, something that we can park in the back of minds and only recall for special occasions or moments of crisis. The branch that is not thoroughly alive quickly loses the natural sap that alone brings growth and fruitfulness.
The Church grows and is sustained when we allow the life of the Lord to enter into our hearts. We become truly people of God when we live as God’s holy people. Renewal of the Church takes place on our knees, prostrate before Jesus and his self-giving love.
We give thanks for what this Church building has meant within this local community and how the prayer and worship that has taken place over these years has provided comfort and stimulus, care and challenge to the men and women who have come here to know Jesus Christ.
My prayer is that this Church will continue in that role and will continue to be central to the lives of the young men and women who will form this community in the future.
An anniversary is a moment to look back and to celebrate. More importantly, it is an occasion to take stock and look to the future. We look to a new generation who are called to take up the heritage of the past in a very different world, but a world that more than ever needs to know and understand and imbibe the message of Jesus.”