By Sarah Mac Donald - 25 June, 2019
This evening the diocese of Derry’s newest priest, Fr Declan McGeehan, will celebrate his first Mass in St Mary’s Church, Killyclogher following his ordination on Sunday by Bishop Donal McKeown at St Eugene’s Cathedral.
In his homily on Sunday, Bishop McKeown thanked the young priest for his “generous heart”.
He said Fr McGeehan was called to be a teacher of the faith in a world of fake news, where there is a deep hunger for the truth that sets people free.
“The best teachers,” according to Dr McKeown, “are those who are permanent learners. Only a disciple can make disciples. Those who think they have arrived have hearts that are incapable of walking with a pilgrim people, who are still journeying.”
He said Fr Declan’s ministry would involve accompanying people on his and their exodus from “the false securities of low expectations and frail certainties. You are an earthenware vessel holding a divine treasure. You come with humility to teach – and to be taught.”
Elsewhere in his homily, the Bishop of Derry said that in a culture where there is “a deforestation of Christian memory” and where a dominant consumerist culture seeks to colonise the minds of the young from their earliest years, the new priest would be a teacher of God’s love and mercy.
“In a ‘throwaway culture’ where young people face many challenges, including mental health issues, you are called to proclaim hope and not condemnation, grace and not anger. Take Jesus as your model, when he faced sin. Like Jesus and the disciples, expect to meet many good people who will laugh at you uncomprehendingly.”
That was the context into which he was being ordained to minister. “It will never be easy. But it is a hurting society that needs to hear about God’s graciousness.”
The Bishop told the congregation of friends and family who gathered for the ordination in St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry, “There are many broken people in all our communities, people scarred by pain and sin.”
He appealed to the new priest to know in his ministry how to bring the whole Christ to those who hunger and thirst in deserted places.
“Do not break the crushed reed nor put out the wavering flame. Resist the temptation to send them away so they can find food for themselves. We are not masters of Christ’s sacramental presence. We are his servants. Make sure that those scarred by life are enabled to meet the Eucharistic Jesus who wants to feed them in particular.”
Reminding Fr McGeehan that he was being ordained for a leadership role, Dr McKeown said, “A good leader bears the burdens of those whom he or she leads. Your task is not to be the ‘Lone Ranger’ hero who saves the world. Your leadership – as that of Jesus – will prepare the People of God for their common mission of renewing the face of the earth through grace.”
Fr Declan will celebrate his First Mass in St Mary’s Church, Killyclogher at 7.30 p.m. this evening.
There will be an opportunity for those in attendance to receive a plenary indulgence (if the usual conditions are met) from receiving the blessing of a newly ordained priest.