16 October 2003
HOMILY OF MOST REV JIM MORIARTY, BISHOP OF KILDARE AND LEIGHLIN
AT REQUIEM MASS FOR BISHOP LAURENCE RYAN R.I.P.
ON THURSDAY 16TH OCTOBER 2003
Issued by the Catholic Communications Office on behalf of
the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin
The Beatitudes our Gospel reading is read by Fr. Paddy Byrne.
Fr. Paddy was the last priest Bishop Larry ordained here in Carlow.
The Beatitudes are the summation of Christian life. If one was looking for
a description of the personality of Jesus Christ one would go no further than
the Beatitudes. We have heard them, the eight Beatitudes. They sound lovely,
full of beauty and balance and music, but don’t be seduced by the poetry.
That passage in the Gospel contains the most difficult challenge of all time.
The values of our society can be greed, self importance, selfishness, impurity,
aggressiveness, revenge and wars. Our Lord takes these values, gives them a
good shaking, turns them upside down and says they are not my values. My values
are mercy, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace and these were the
values Bishop Laurence espoused exemplified by his motto ‘Minister Christi Jesu’ –
Servant Minister of Christ Jesus.
Bishop Ryan showed his commitment to these values as president of the Bishops
Commission on Justice and Peace. He was always a strong and courageous advocate
of justice and a constant defender of the human rights of the weak and the poor.
Minister Christi Jesu In all as seminarian, priest and bishop he has served
the diocese faithfully for 54 years.
Bishop Ryan was born in St. Mullins, South Carlow. He had great attachment to the
area and was very loyal to his family and to his roots. Family were very important
to him and he to his family. I’d like to extend our deepest sympathy to his sister
Maggie, and her husband John Morrissey, his brother Patrick and his wife Birdie,
his brother Michael and his wife Marie – his two nieces and nine nephews. Every
member of the family has participated in the ceremony.
Bishop Ryan attended all family occasions – baptisms, weddings funerals and on this
occasion I’d like to pay tribute to them for providing Kildare and Leighlin with a
great priest and a worthy Bishop who served his people so well. His attachment to
the area was demonstrated only a couple of weeks ago when I met him at Dr. Cullen
Park to watch St. Mullins play in the Carlow Hurling Championship. And he joked
when he retired about changing the name of his house from Avila – the town associated
with the Carmelites, St. Teresa of Avila – to Teach Moling. It indicated a preference
for Celtic Spirituality over Carmelite Spirituality.
He had a brilliant academic career from Glynn National School to St. Mary’s Knockbeg,
to Maynooth where he was ordained in 1956. We extend sympathy particularly to his
classmates – Moling Lennon, Matt Kelly and John Fingleton. Within two years he
obtained his doctorate in Theology and he served the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin
as lecturer in Theology, vice president and in 1974 president of Carlow College.
Like all of us, Bishop Larry was saddened at the drop in the number of vocations
in the diocese and clergy. But like all of us pleased and proud at the exciting
development taking place over the last few years in Carlow College.
His interest in work led him way beyond the college. He was the first president
of the National Council of Priests of Ireland. He was secretary and chairman of
the Irish Theological Assoc. 1966-1978. He was active at local and regional level
of the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council later ACCORD. He himself was trained as
a counsellor and worked for years in preparing people for marriage.
Minister Christi Jesu Bishop Larry became P.P. of Naas in 1980. He loved Naas
and it was while he was in Naas that he was named as co-adjutor Bishop of the Diocese.
He continued to live there until the retirement of Bishop Lennon in 1988. From 1984-
1987 he had the benefit of Dr. Lennon’s wisdom and experience and fittingly that he
will now be buried beside his good friend in the grounds of the Cathedral. Naas gave
him hands on experience of pastoral life.
As a theologian and bishop he was tireless in encouraging lay people to fully
participate in the life of the church and to exercise in full their baptismal
vocation as priest prophet and king. He promoted lay involvement in every facet
of the diocese. He set up a whole network of committees in which lay people could
explore and exercise real involvement in the life of the church – at parish pastoral
council level, at deanery level and diocesan level. He encouraged think tanks and
core groups to look at every facet of diocesan policy and planning. The renovation
of the cathedral where we are celebrating this liturgy was necessary not only to
maintain the fabric of the building but also gave expression to the renew introduced
by the Second Vatican Council and central to that renewal is the principle that the
congregation along with the priest, play an active part in the liturgical celebration.
Priest and people joined in a unified act of worship. And in this the Cathedral
surely is admirably successful.
At national level he was very well respected and his was a voice of reasonable
commonsense liberalism. As an indication of the esteem which he was held, Bishop
Laurence was chairman of the Bishop’s committee appointed to organise and oversee
events for the great Jubilee Year 2000. And of course the Kildare and Leighlin
gathering in the Curragh was an outstanding success.
“And all that mighty heart is lying still” These words of William Wordsworth
come to mind at this time. Bishop Larry had severe heart trouble in 1985 not long after
his appointment as Bishop. His may well have been a weak heart physically but helped
along by modern medicine there was nothing weak or faltering about the qualities of
the heart that characterised him. In the last two years of his life when he might
reasonably have expected a rest he was afflicted with the debilitating illness which
he bore with outstanding courage. He faced death with faith and quiet confidence and
spent the last few days saying his goodbyes to family and friends and thanking people
for their kindness to him. In this regard I want to especially thank Nora Dermody
his housekeeper and Sr. Cecelia Molloy who were heroic in their care and kindness to
him. Fr. Conn Moloney who assisted him and especially for arranging and categorising
Bishop Larry’s most precious possessions – his books!
Today as we commit his mortal remains to the earth and commend his soul to God I wish
to express my appreciation of Bishop Ryan’s kindness to me since I came to the diocese.
He was always so welcoming and reassuring. I will miss his vast store of knowledge
of the diocese and his knowledge of the church at national level. But maybe above
all I feel I’ve lost a very good friend.
Our second reading today reminds us that nothing can come between us and the love of
God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord. Christ’s death and resurrection gives us
a vision of human life in which death is not the failure of therapy but the final
healing. It is not a closed door but a threshold to a world where all tears are
wiped away and our hearts filled with unlimited joy. As the Poet puts it ‘death
is blowing out the candle because the dawn has arrived’ As the caterpillar dies
and the butterfly flies off to the sun, that his our hope for all our friends who
die and indeed for ourselves that as we shed this mortal body we are clothed in a
new spiritual body of the resurrection.
Coming from St. Mullins, living in Teach Moling, could I use the death of St. Moling
as described in the book of St. Mullins.
He was a poet, a prophet, a seer a scholar.
He was a sage, a psalmist priest,
a bishop, a soulfriend and noble.
Nobly and honourably he went unto the angelic resting place
with the choiring of the household of heaven
and with prayer of the household of earth,
after fasting and almsgiving and prayer
and fulfilment of every good thing.
Eternal rest grant unto you Bishop Larry and may you rest in peace.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.
Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin
16 October 2003
Fr Micheal Murphy (086) 824 4629
Fr Martin Clarke (087) 220 8044
Ms Brenda Drumm (087) 233 7797