During the week, I had the joy of spending a bit of time with the priests of St Patrick’s Missionary Society (Kiltegan). I was there for a Day of Recollection.
After lunch I walked to the cemetery and spent a bit of time there. I found names I knew: Ciaran Needham, Kevin Brehony, Leo O’Sullivan and others that I’d heard of, Vincent McNamara and one that I met when there for the annual retreat in 2016; Padraig Ó’Máille who died last year, R.I.P.
The Cemetery is overshadowed by a wind turbine and I couldn’t help but make the connection between the energy it produces and the energy these men brought to mission. I had a sense of the shafts of the turbine overshadowing me and there was a certain reassurance in the whirring sound they made. The sound of energy. A necessary sound for where there’s movement – life – there’s sound too.
I was reminded of a piece written many years ago about another cemetery in the grounds of Dalgan Park where Columban missionaries are buried. The writer mentions the simplicity of the headstones – name, date of birth and date of death. He concludes “but God knows the full story”. So also the Kiltegan headstones and the knowing of the full story.
Many of the men I met the other day are aged and tired but wonderfully cared for. They have a certain and deserved level of comfort but I had a strong sense of many of them having a deep longing for missionary days again in far flung lands.
I gave a lift to one of the newest Kiltegan priests, Fr Patrick, ordained just five years. He was travelling to Knock and we crossed the country together. Fr Patrick is one of the first African born Kiltegan priests and is visiting Ireland for the first time. I mentioned to him that I’d spent the bit of time in the Cemetery. I spoke of Kevin Brehony and he said “there’s a plaque in his memory in my church”. It was as if Patrick knew Kevin but then I realised Kevin is dead over thirty years and Patrick was, at most, three years old when he died and Kevin had been in Ireland for a number of years prior to his death. It’s likely Patrick never met Kevin but he knew him. He spoke of another man that I had met earlier and told me there’s a street named after him in an African city. It was clear to me that Patrick carries in his heart a depth of gratitude that runs deeper than the six foot grave.
These people made and continue to make a difference.
Lenten thought …. what difference will we make? For what will we be remembered?