Fr Pádraig presided at two Masses in the Parish of St Philip Howard, Cambridge. I concelebrated at one of them. He did very well. The tradition, as I now understand it, is that newly ordained priests do not preach at their First Mass but invite a friend to do so. Fr Pádraig asked Fr Paul McNally, a member of the staff at St Mary’s College, Oscott where Pádraig studied for the priesthood. It was a very solemn celebration, using the revised texts of the Roman Missal. A little more “in tune” than I might be – truth told but a very good and uplifting experience. Well done to all involved.
It was clearly evident that Pádraig is highly thought of in the parish and the many people who attended both Eucharistic Celebrations attested to that reality. His parish priest spoke very well of Pádraig and was thankful that he had responded to God’s call to become a priest. Following Mass, Fr Pádraig met with people outside the church. Many of them asked for his “First Blessing” – some even knelt on the street though that was not necessary!! I decided to leave my request for a blessing until Pádraig comes to celebrate Mass with us in Urlaur on Sunday July 17th.
Following Mass we were entertained to an afternoon of food and celebration, hosted by the parish. So many people took part, each representing their lives as parishioners and, in many cases, the cultural backgrounds from which they came. We had Irish Music and Dance, a South African Song, a Filipino Dance (the newly ordained took to the floor for that one – wearing a somewhat less than conventional collar, presented to him for the dance!!!), an African Prayer Poem, song and dance and a powerful pop performance from three young brothers. The food was as varied as it was tasty. Again, full marks to all. Pádraig was presented with a Stole and leather bag by the African Community. It was a lovely moment, well explained to us, by the MC for the day. He told us that the Shepherd’s Bag is very important in Africa and, in it, he carries what sustains him as he tends the sheep. Likewise, the priest in his tending to the flock needs to carry the essentials, hence the symbolism of the bag. I was very impressed by the simplicity and absolute sincerity of this presentation.