His remains will lie in repose in the Pallottine College in Thurles on Wednesday 16th from 5pm, with prayers and removal to the Chapel at 7.30pm. Funeral Mass will be on Thursday in the Chapel at 11.30 followed by burial in Cabra.
(Fr. Derry Murphy SAC, Provincial Rector)
We gather here this morning for the funeral Mass of Fr. Michael Kiely. There is a sense of the surreal for me here. The reason I say this is because just last week we were gathered here for our annual Pallottine retreat in this very College, Community and Chapel.
Fr. Michael had expressed to me on a number of occasions that the best time to die would be during the annual Pallottine retreat. He said “the lads would give me a good sending off.” Michael was a very popular person and he was known by a very large number of very dear friends and he kept in contact with them, remarkably for a man of 84 years. Fr. Michael was an eternal optimist, in fact the last time when he went into hospital he gave me many of his personal possessions but then he took back his driving licence and he said, “I might need that again”. He was a very generous person and as you know money burned a hole in his pocket.
It would not be possible for me to tell you everything about Fr. Michael. Each person here has their own story/memories of Fr. Michael. Within this congregation there are many feelings, emotions and memories floating about today as we say good-bye to him.
Fr. Michael was from Bruff, Co Limerick and he was very proud of it. He was born on the 2nd of April nineteen-thirty-one. For those of us who accompanied Fr. Michael on his many visits to the Accident and Emergency departments of our hospitals we had to learn off his date of birth, when the person at the desk asked what is your date of birth: we would sing 2/4/31.
At the age of fourteen Michael came to the Pallottine College, he completed his secondary education and went on to study Philosophy and Theology in St. Patrick’s College, Thurles. Fr. Michael was ordained to the priesthood on June 16th 1957. In October of that year Frs. Michael, Ned O’Brien and the late Joe Harris flew from London to Nairobi, making many stops on the way. The three of them made an agreement among themselves. They set up a rota that one of them was to stay awake at all times and that if the plane started to go down the sacrament of anointing was to be celebrated. Fr. Michael spent nine years in Africa and he was very proud of this time in his life as a missionary. He showed a great love for the people and a passion for the Swahili language of Tanzania.
While Fr. Michael was in Africa it is told that he was transferred to a new parish and on the first night he was badly bitten by bed bugs. Next day, and very irate, Fr. Michael went to the neighbouring town and bought new beds for the house. He sent the bill to Bishop Winters. We are told that the Bishop Winters, who knew Fr. Michael well, said nothing and payed the bill!
On medical advice Fr. Michael did not return to Africa. He then continued his priestly ministry in England. He served in many parishes in England starting with Sts. Peter and Paul, in Amwell Street, in London
Fr. Michael also spent some time in North America. He even ended up on mission appeals in Texas. And as it so happened the 1970 FIFA World Cup was being played in Mexico. And somehow Fr. Michael through some great friends managed to get to the World Cup.
On his return to England Fr. Michael ministered in the following parishes, Hastings, New Barking, Halstead – where he was known as “the jolly friar”, Amwell Street and also during this time he did some further pastoral studies in Heythrop College. Fr. Michael was Provincial Delegate from 1984 to 1990.
In October of 1995 I remember Fr. Michael coming off the ferry at Dun Laoghaire from England, in his red Ford Escort, which was packed to the roof. This started a time in my life as a newly-ordained priest with Frs. Michael and Gerry Fleming.
As I put pen to paper I am wondering if am I writing a eulogy or a sermon, maybe it is a bit of both.
This was the beginning of seven very happy years for me in my first years as a priest and Fr. Michael a man of great pastoral wisdom and encouragement. He was a “people person”, and he is famous for his card writing, the box of chocolates and occasionally flowers as well.
In the readings of this Mass we have heard from St. Pauls’ first Letter to the Corinthians, 12:31-13:13. In this Paul writes that there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love. Fr. Michael had a great love for people and he lived it to the full. He was in no way “a gong booming or a cymbal clashing”. In the first reading we heard from the book of Wisdom, 3:1-6.9. The first line reads “The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God, no torment shall ever touch them.” Fr. Michael is now in the hands of God where there is no more sickness or pain.
During this year Fr. Michael had been in hospital six times, for an average of three to four weeks each time. Over the last four days many people came to see Fr. Michael and spend some time with him as he was dying and to accompany us and his family. This reminds me of the Gospel which we have just listened to from St. Like, 24: 13-16.28-35. It is the account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples are heartbroken because of what has happened to Jesus. The disciples tell their stories about Jesus just like we shared our memories of Fr. Michael in St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Fr. Michael lived for the last three years in Pallotti House, with the student community, in Dundrum, Dublin. He loved being around the students and he did not like the summer months when they were away. Fr. Michael was well known for his regular shopping outings and he would always return with a treat for the community. On the occasions when Fr. Michael joined the students for the celebration of the Eucharist he was sometimes the main celebrant and really enjoyed this. At the communion reflection he always prayed John Henry Cardinal Newman prayer, and I feel that it is appropriate to conclude with this prayer.
“May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last.”
Fr. Michael Irwin S.A.C.
Pallottine College, Thurles 17th September 2015
PS I woke this morning about 5 a.m. and decided that I must put this homily on paper. I cried as I put words on paper just like I cried this day last week when I celebrated the sacrament of the sick with Michael.
As I returned to my room this morning at about 8.30 a.m. to prepare for the Sunday Mass I am greeted by Michael’s opened empty room and no mention of the warm cry ‘Mike, Mike is that you?’ I celebrate the morning Mass with tears in my heart and when it came to the communion reflection I sat there with my eyes closed in silence thinking of Michael and remembering the prayer of John Henry Newman. Some think I am praying but really I was crying for a much loved and dear friend, Fr. Michael Kiely.
Michael Irwin SAC, 20th September 2015.