Homily of Bishop Kevin at the Funeral Mass for Fr. Thomas Garvey

Homily of Bishop Kevin at the Funeral Mass for Fr. Thomas Garvey
12th December 2014, Glinsk, Co. Galway

I have been assured by the Vicar General of Hobart in Tazmania that, as we gather here in Glinsk for the funeral Mass of Fr. Tom, he is being remembered at Vigil Masses throughout that diocese, in which he ministered for over thirty years, before returning here to serve in this parish.

When Fr. Tom boarded the boat for Australia after his ordination, he was a lot younger than Abram (1st Reading, Genesis 12). Tom didn’t bring sheep with him, as Abram did; there were already plenty of sheep in Australia. But Tom did leave his own land and his father’s house and went to the land that God had shown him.

Pope John Paul, speaking to young people at World Youth Day in Rome, said: “it is Jesus who puts in your heart the desire to do something great with your life”. Tom responded, as a young man, to the call of Christ to “Go make disciples of all nations…” (Gospel; Matthew 28). His decision would probably have been rooted in a rich blend of faith, a desire to make a difference in the lives of others and a spirit of adventure.

There would have been a strong element of sacrifice because, like Abram, Tom left his home and his father’s house. There would undoubtedly have been moments of loneliness, far from home. We should not overstate the element of sacrifice in the life of the priest. The truth is that there is sacrifice in any way of life that is worth living, and sacrifice is possible as long as we keep our eyes on the goal.

As St Paul tells us in the second reading (Rom. 14:7-12) “the life and death of each of us has its effect on others”. As a priest, Tom baptised people in Australia and here in Glinsk. He nourished them with God’s Word and with the Eucharist. They are his spiritual descendents and, like the descendents of Abraham who inherited the land, they have inherited, through Tom’s ministry, something of even greater value.

Allow me for a few moments to share some thoughts about our own diocese. Elphin – and particularly this end of the diocese – has produced many priests and religious for service oveseas, in dioceses in Australia and the USA and also with the Kiltegan Missionaries and the Divine Word Missionaries. We have been blessed in recent years in so far as many of those priests have returned to complete their active ministry in our diocese, including Fr Tom’s two successors, Fr. Michael and Fr. John. That will not continue; there are less missionaries going out, so there will be less coming home.

Who will replace people like Fr. Tom? You may think this is a big problem for me, but it is not just a question for me. If it were, there would be no answer. Idealism has not gone away, but we face real challenges in turning it into reality. People don’t easily think of permanence in a rapidly changing world. But the love of God IS constant. Sacrifice is not a popular word, but we are happy enough when others make sacrifices for us.

Our parishes cannot be just service stations. They must be (or become once more) communities of faith and service in which every vocation is valued and nourished. This supports those whom God is calling to priesthood to discern that call and to respond generously to it.

To you, Kay, Anna, Paul, Tom, Sean and Mike, to your extended family and to the parish community here, I offer my own sympathies and prayers as well as those of Bishop Christy Jones who, due to family illness is unable to be with us. I am conscious that this is your second bereavement in a very short space of time, with the recent death of Dom Peter Garvey, at Roscrea. It is difficult when two such lights are taken from your lives. May they now shine brightly in the kingdom of heaven.