The priest I mentioned in the previous entry was Fr Muredach Tuffy who served in the Diocese of Killala. People remain in total shock at this sad loss of life and Muredach’s death comes in a week when a thirteen year old girl was buried in Co Donegal who, like him, decided she could not be in this world any longer. Our hearts go out to all who have had to bear this cross and remain with those who have died.
“We put them yesterday under our Lady’s Protection. Today we put them under the protection of her only son. May Peter freely open to them the gates of paradise and may God and His angels bring their souls to the city of the saints. Amen”.
Bishop John Fleming preached at his Funeral Mass in Castleconnor, Co. Sligo on All Souls’ Day. Below is the text of his homily. We pray for peace for Muredach and for the consoling of his family, friends and brother priests and bishop in the Diocese of Killala.
We gather, on the Feast of All Souls, as a family, as a priesthood, and as friends, stunned by Muredach’s death and devastated in our grief. We gather to commend him to the gentle mercy of our loving God and we gather to comfort and console each other in our sorrow.
We come together with one word on our minds. Why? Why did someone as gifted and as young as Muredach only see darkness on Monday last and decide that he could travel no further on life’s journey? Why did he not share whatever anxiety filled his mind with someone? Why? Why? And as these days pass, we come, without an answer, to the realisation that we have to consign our questions to the realm of mystery, the divine mystery in which God lives, in which we believe Muredach now shares God’s life and in which we must ultimately leave all our unanswered questions.
Muredach began his Christian journey at the baptismal font in this church, in the parish of Castleconnor. It was here that he received the Lord for the first time in Holy Communion. It was here also that he was confirmed in his faith. It was here that he received the Sacrament of Orders and here that he said his first Mass. Equally importantly, it was here that he received the forgiveness of God for the first time in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And as we gather here this morning, we pray that the reconciliation which he received here, which was so important to him as a Christian and which he exercised so conscientiously as a priest, will now be extended to him once more by the God who loves him, so that he will experience forever the peace of Christ, which is beyond all telling.
The manner of his passing will cast a long shadow over many lives for many years to come. It should not be allowed, however, to define his life or to darken what has been, by any standard, over thirteen years of outstanding service given as a priest in this diocese. His years of service found their fulcrum in the Newman Institute and from that focal point many other satellites of activity found their orbit. Immediately after ordination, Bishop Finnegan prepared him for this work by sending him to Rome to study at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family at the Lateran University. On his return he was given the task of moving the focus of Newman from a Catholic University for Mayo towards a centre of adult faith formation for the West. His was the job of reorganising its finances, relocating the Institute to its present site, restructuring its courses and preparing it for the service of the Gospel in the culture of our modern world. For the past ten years he has given every ounce of his considerable energy to the Institute.
Many satellites of pastoral care grew from his commitment to this work; his time in Kilcommon Erris, his years as a curate in Rathduff and his recent service as an assistant priest in the Cathedral. As Director of the Institute, he was involved in so many projects in Ballina down through the years that I have lost count of them. Added to all of this was his work for the promotion of vocations to the priesthood, initially within the diocese but more recently at national level. Two years ago he was invited by the Irish bishops to work with Accord in the preparation of proper standards of pre-marriage preparation. And within the Institute he had, not only his work of administration, but also his work in adult faith formation and his lectures. People and projects energised him. Availability was his second name. If he had a fault it was his inability to say No; no to so many people who came to him with requests and good ideas and no to me, as his bishop, when, regretfully, I did the same.
When Christ sat on the mountainside and shared with his disciples his vision of Christian living he could have had Muredach in mind; poor in spirit, he left a career in medicine after only one year in UCG to follow the Lord; gentle by nature, he showed gentleness at all times in his love of his family, his care for others and especially for those most in need of his support; a comforter among mourners, recent days have told stories of his particular care for mourners in the days before his own death. He was principled almost to a fault when it came to the cause of what he believed was right. Merciful, pure of heart and a peacemaker, he lived out his priesthood by ticking all the boxes of the eight beatitudes. He was a good shepherd, a genuine priest and a real example of pastoral care.
Christ never promised that life would be easy for those who based their lives on the charter of the Beatitudes. The three words he used towards the end of his reflection are strong and hard by any standard; you will receive abuse, you will be persecuted and all kinds of calumny will be spoken against you on my account. They are a follow on to his repeated warning to all those who become his followers; “If you want to be a disciple of mine, renounce yourself, take up your Cross every day and follow me”. The hard lesson of being a Christian, and in particular of being a priest in today’s world, is that suffering always walks side by side with peace and the Cross is always linked with the promise of the Resurrection. No matter how much we try to, we cannot separate these. But Christ did not end his thoughts on the Christian life with words of hardship. He went on to end his Beatitudes with words of hope; “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you”.
Father Muredach will be remembered for the outstanding witness which he gave to the charter of Christian living outlined in the Beatitudes during his life and especially during the thirteen years of his ministry in this diocese. As time goes by and we remember acts of kindness, acts of courageous witness and the little things which are personal memories to each of us, his commitment and witness will endure. And while we are almost submerged by sadness on this day, we remember and apply to him the last words of Christ in the Beatitudes; “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven”.
May his gentle soul rest in peace.
Bishop John Fleming is Bishop of Killala