Bishop Fleming's homily on the Dedication of Church Bell June 19, 2011:
|Each of us has a favourite sound, smell or sight which reminds us of something special from our past. One of mine is the sound of church bells ringing on a Sunday morning across the Italian countryside around Florence. Occasionally, therefore, when I hear the sound of a church bell ringing in this country my mind wanders back to pleasant sunny Sunday mornings in Italy.
Listening to the sound of those bells, I have often thought of the generations of people who heard them in that city; the rich and the poor, saints and sinners, nuns in their convents, priests in their parishes, people walking in the streets, young and old, joyful and sorrowful. For some those bells were a call to prayer and to Mass, for others they represented the presence of the Catholic Church in that city, in which they, as individuals, either had no faith or resented, for others the accustomed sounds went unheeded, due to their familiar ring, or the noise of the traffic or the preoccupations of their own homes.
For many here in Ballina, the sound of the bells of the cathedral don’t impinge on us that much as we try to negotiate with the one way traffic system, do our business or greet each other on the streets. When they do, the bells normally remind us to say the Angelus, to hurry for Mass or to be silent as the remains of a family member or a friend are carried in to or out of the cathedral for their funeral Mass and their final farewell. But, as in Italy, the sounds are familiar, linking our generation with the next, calling individuals to come together as members of the worshiping Christian community to pray and reminding us of God and his presence in our midst.
The new bell and tower, which we are dedicating today here in St Patrick’s Church, will act as a reminder of the past, therefore, and an invitation for the present and the future. It will call us to pray and to remember.
This tower is a monument to and a reminder of the enormous contribution made by the Sisters of Mercy during the years they have worked in our midst for the betterment of our community. On this day, therefore, as bishop and in the name of my predecessors, I want to pay a particular tribute to the Sisters of Mercy who since 1851, namely for one hundred and sixty years, have provided education and health care for the people of this town and its surrounding area, together with Skreen, Ballycastle and Belmullet, in this country and San Diego in California. From humble beginnings, as teachers of religion in the Cathedral and as carers in Ballina Workhouse, they have given a series of lifetimes, with complete selflessness, to the welfare of the people of this diocese. Under their guidance and based on their sacrifice, primary and secondary schools were opened in four parishes of our diocese, as well as hospitals and nursing homes in Ballina and Belmullet. As we mark today the dedication of this bell tower, therefore, we record the eternal gratitude of all of us to the Sisters, present and past, for all that they have done.
The doors of the Convent have been closed for over two years now but the place of the Convent remains foremost in the hearts of Ballina. The torch of maintaining the vision and ideals of Catherine McAuley and of her Sisters down through the decades has entered a new phase and has passed to a new generation. The key to the success of the new structures that have been put in place, both in the schools and in the hospitals and nursing homes, will be the example of the spirit of cooperation and dedication which we have been given by the selfless dedication and commitment of the Sisters of Mercy. I hope and pray that this bell tower will always act as a reminder to us of the ideals and service given by them.
It is particularly fitting that this, St Patrick’s Church, should have a new bell tower. The Irish Annals record a long association between St Patrick and sacred bells. In particular, they note the tradition which St Patrick had of leaving a small hand bell in every church which he consecrated. One of these bells is still to be seen in the National Museum in Dublin. It is also appropriate as this diocese welcomes to the Cathedral in these days the Eucharistic Congress Bell as it makes it journey around the dioceses of Ireland reminding us of the National Eucharistic Congress which will be held in Knock next Saturday and the 50th International Congress which will be held in Dublin on this Sunday next year.
This Bell Tower, however, is not just a monument to the past. It will be an invitation for the future. Each day this bell will toll to signal the beginning of Mass, to call people to prayer for the Angelus, at midday and in the evening, and to mark the important moments in our everyday lives, Sunday Mass, First Communions, Confirmations, marriages and funerals.
The English poet, John Donne, in his poem “No man is an island” paid a tribute to community involvement and Christian commitment. Part of his poem reads “No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main… each man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
The bells of this Church, in our new Bell Tower, will toll for generations to come to mark the presence of Christians in our midst, even if in decreased numbers. They will toll in tribute to their personal concern, their community involvement, their faithfulness to family and friends and, above all, their witness to Christ in a new age. They will toll in sadness and in joy, they will mark all the significant moments of the Christian life and, above all, they will remind us of the eternal; the presence and the love of God’s in our midst.
Posted by gohora
on June 19, 2011 at 10:37 PM