An emotional mass for Monsignor John Wilson last night as members of both churches in the parish of Ballymore Eustace and Hollywood turned out to acknowledge the contribution he has made during his ten years service as parish priest.
Assisted by Fr Jimmy Prendiville, there were several presentations and many tributes made to Monsignor John, who was somewhat taken aback at the level of support and attendance on the night. With a full host of altar boys and girls and the choir in full voice, both the Parish Pastoral Council of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and representatives from St John's Church of Ireland made special presentations to Monsignor John.
Gus Kavanagh of the Pastoral Council was first to address the attendance and stated this was a special evening, “an occasion to say 'Cheerio', rather than goodbye to our lovely parish priest, Monsignor John Wilson”.
He added: “He came to us from Athy ten years ago and we'd like to thank Bishop Eamon for sending him to us. He is kind and finds time to talk to all parishioners from the youngest to the oldest among us.” Gus also acknowledged Monsignor's rapport with Scoil Mhuire, and noted there was no less than three principals of Scoil Mhuire present for the mass – Mairead O'Flynn, Alan Hobbins and recently appointed principal, Peter Roche.
Fr Prendiville was next up on the pulpit and his 'tribute' had the congregation in stitches! “I'm a little hoarse, having been shouting for 'the other side' in the recent All Ireland football finals, seeing as Monsignor John is a Dub!”
Fr Prendiville noted the Monsignor was the third parish priest he worked with, and he found the latter to be “always a gentleman, always helpful, worked with sincerity and noted for his gentleness. The altar servers used to love serving with him, as it seems he parted with more fivers and tenners. A Hollywood child recently said to me 'Why can't we swap and you go to Ballymore!' The honesty of a child....I wish him all the best – he is not retiring, just stepping back from parish duties so I wish Monsignor John every blessing for the future”.
Grania Glancy spoke with warmth of Monsignor Wilson's support and ecumenical services with St John's Church of Ireland. “You've always supported us and been the best promoter of our fundraising events. As I live close to the church, I often come over for 10am mass. I feel part of this church as much as I do with COI.”
Grania then described the bond Monsignor has with the school children at Scoil Mhuire, and how the altar servers love serving with him.
“I sincerely hope you get to spend time doing the things you enjoy in your retirement” added Grania “As you've done a wonderful job here in Ballymore Eustace with both churches”. Grania's granddaughter Holly Dowling then presented a gift to Monsignor Wilson from St John's.
Maureen Evans and Martina Byrne of the Pastoral Council added further tributes to the above, endorsing the Monsignor's quiet but consistent support in parish matters and his kindness and support to grieving families. It was further noted he traveled to visit parishioners in nursing homes, near and far, in hospital, etc.
Sean Horan presented Monsignor with a painting by Martin Gale of a mare in foal, as the Monsignor has a love of racing and Mrs Eithne Daly, as Ballymore's oldest citizen, made a second presentation. Monsignor was then called on to address the congregation and he recalled the joke about the widow who was listening to an over zealous priest speaking at her last husband's funeral mass. The widow poked her teenage daughter and said “Go up there and see if that's your father in the coffin and who he's talking about!”
Monsignor Wilson thanked primarily the regular church goers and mass attendees, the altar servers and noted it was lovely to see some present on the night, especially those who've gone on to secondary level. To parents, he added:
“Thank you for your confidence in letting your children serve with me. They're fun and quickly figure out the difference between serving at funerals and weddings!
"If children have had a good grounding in church beliefs, should they lose their way in later life, the foundations given by parents and church will help them find their way back.....”
Monsignor noted his 10 years service in this parish was his longest stint as parish priest, having served two years in Dundrum, then as secretary to an Archbishop, with some years in Rome; two to three years in Greystones before going to Athy and then finally to Ballymore Eustace for the last 10 years.
“I don't believe I've ever had a disagreement with a parishioner in my ten years here” concluded Monsignor Wilson “but thank you all, mass goers, altar servers and all those on the Pastoral Council”.
A reception was hosted in the Resource Centre afterwards, with a packed hall. Sadly, earlier today, Monsignor officiated at the funeral mass of the late Mrs Kathleen Boland, who was in her 101st year, and it was her wish that the Monsignor would host her funeral mass. God bless to Kathleen and best wishes to Monsignor John in his 'retirement'.
Fr Joe Connelly, formerly of Donabate parish, will take up duties in Ballymore Eustace and Hollywood parish later this week.