Our Jubilarians this year are:
– Br Matthew Feheney, Br Benildus Fenton, Br De Lellis O’Sullivan (Platinum, 70 years of religious life)
– Br Bede Minehane, Br Mike McGrah (Diamond, 60 years of religious life)
Br. Raymond Dwyer, Province Leader, Anglo-Irish Province gave the following Homily for the Mass.
Isaiah 12: 1-5, Eph. 3: 14-21, Mt. 25: 31-32a, 34-40
We gather today in Maiville to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Brothers Matthew Feheney, Benildus Fenton, De Lellis O’Sullivan and the Diamond Jubilee of Brother Bede Minehane. We give thanks for the fidelity and loyalty to God over the years that these men have given through the Presentation Brothers.
Jubilee celebrations are special occasions. We acknowledge the commitment that these Brothers have given to the service of youth and disadvantaged people during the past 70/60 years, respectively. They are giving a life of dedication and service to God; we celebrate this today. We rejoice with the sentiments expressed in Isaiah: “In that day you will say: “Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world”.
While preparing this reflection, I reflected back on the 70s and 60s in Ireland: the country was changing, the Troubles in the North of Ireland were starting to dominate the national airwaves, Jack Lynch was the Taoiseach from 1966 to 1973. France and Wales were the powerhouses of international rugby and history was made when Munster beat the All Blacks in 1978. Cork beat Kilkenny in the 1966 All-Ireland Hurling Final and Galway beat Meath in the All-Ireland Football Final. Each one of us here will have our own memories.
It is against this background of a changing Ireland that Matthew, Benildus, De Lellis and Bede were preparing to take vows and embark on journeys that have lasted for the past 70/60 years. I asked myself, “Why did these men travel this road of a vocation with the Presentation Brothers?” It was, I believe, your enthusiasm, your passion for Christ and a strong desire to serve him. You believed that you could make a difference in the lives of those you have encountered over the past 70/60 years either in the classroom or on the margins.
In 2014 Pope Francis launched the Year of Consecrated Life and he marvelled that his own call of vocation was “a call of love”. And that is what happened to you. Christ looked at you and you said, “Yes”. Yes, to a call to love. You did not have to wait to come to Religious Life to learn about love, community, faith, generosity or concern for those in need; you had already imbibed these traits from your family and the larger community that you grew up in. They nurtured you, supported you in your vocation and the journey you took in 1950 or 1960 when you made First Profession. Today you have just renewed your vows in the presence of your confrères.
What wonderful lives of presence, witness and service you have given at home and aboard! You adapted to the changing circumstance as you grew through fragility, engaged with diversity and were truly Brothers in Christ to the people you lived and worked among.
Matthew, you have dedicated your life to the service of those in education as the founder of CLEO with the purpose of forming teachers as Christian Leaders in Education. You have also produced 20 plus books on the history of the Brothers and other areas of interest. These books are there for future generations of Brothers and also those for doing research on the Congregation of the Presentation Brothers.
Benildus, you have dedicated your life to the education of the young especially as teacher and principal of a number of schools around Ireland. You were also involved in forming young men as they entered the Novitiate. In later life you have become the poet in resident at Maiville; this is a unique gift and the Brothers really appreciate the time and energy that you put into composing these very witty poems.
De Lellis, you have dedicated your life to the service of “forming Christ in the young” in Peru and the Caribbean Islands for 62 years. You have worked with those on the margins and have guided them with the care and compassion we all know and love in you.
Bede, you have dedicated your life to the education of the young men and women of Ireland. Whenever you have been asked to take on a role, you have done it with an open and willing heart. You have the interest of the Brothers to the fore; you are a caring and compassionate person as can be seen here in the Maiville community.
St. Paul reminds us in today’s Second Reading that God accomplishes all this in us as he “strengthens us inwardly with power through the work of the Spirit. Glory to God, whose power, now at work in us, can do immensely more that we can ask for or imagine.”
Our Jubilarians today have a combined total of 270 years of service in religious life as Presentation Brothers. They have been members of various communities, both at home and abroad; they have influenced the lives of thousands of students and individuals whom they have encountered over their years as Brothers. None of us will fully understand the full extent of the service that these four Brothers have given to those they have befriended, counselled, shown compassion, helped to find a way where there appeared to be none. These ordinary or simple things will have made a world of difference to many whom you have met over the past 70/60 years. Each one of you has given true witness to Brotherhood and to the charism of Blessed Edmund Rice – we can only guess how many individuals or groups have been enriched by your generosity of heart, your compassion and your care.
When we look at today’s Gospel, I believe it speaks volumes to the Jubilarians, “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you entertained me; naked and you clothed me; sick and you looked after me; in prison and you visited me…I assure you, insofar as you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” Brothers, you have lived out this Gospel passage over your lifetime as a Presentation Brother. I do not need to elaborate, but each one of us here celebrating with you knows and acknowledges your living out of this Gospel passage.
Matthew, Benildus, De Lellis and Bede, as we celebrate the Jubilees of your Religious Profession today, we thank God for inviting you to live the consecrated life of Presentation Brothers. We remember your parents for encouraging you to follow the call and support you as you all said ‘yes’ to God’s invitation. We rejoice with you today, and please be assured of our prayers as we all continue the journey with you. May we all be inspired by the vision and mission of Blessed Edmund Rice.