23 MAY 2006
HOMILY OF BISHOP MICHAEL SMITH ON THE OCCASION
OF THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF THE TRAGIC BUS ACCIDENT IN KENTSTOWN
AT MASS IN BEAUPARC ON 23 MAY 2006
I wish to share a few brief thoughts with you as we join in prayer remembering those
who died so tragically one year ago today: Aimee McCabe; Claire McCloskey; Deirdre Scanlon;
Lisa Callan and Sinead Ledwidge. It is not an occasion for many words. Their deaths
evoked enormous sympathy both within and beyond our own country. One has to again
reflect and acknowledge the immense dignity with which all responded in these two
communities to this tragedy. At the end of our Mass we have the blessing and opening
of the Memorial Garden commemorating this painful day in the history of these communities
of Beauparc and Donore parishes.
For you their families the past year has been a very painful journey as you seek to come
to terms with the immense loss and grief that have changed your lives. Yet in your pain
you found the courage to extend the hand of comfort and support to the White family in
Clara and to others who have suffered in the same way over the past year. Your quiet
dignity and courage has impacted on many.
There are so many questions that arise to which there is no answer this side of the grave.
I am sure many times during the course of this past year you pondered and wondered why
your daughter was taken from you. Martha had much the same question for Jesus over the
death of her brother. In His reply Jesus tells us that we must seek to find an explanation
in an understanding of life that transcends the parting and passing that death brings.
It confronts faith. Death, especially the death of the young, tests faith to the utmost.
It draws us into the mystery of life’s meaning and purpose. In these weeks of Easter God
wishes to draw us into a faith the views death as a passing into the eternal love and
life of God. It is in that faith we gather here this evening in prayer.
The first reading of our Mass seeks to lead us into that understanding. It too addresses
the pain of premature death. It is not length of days that makes life honourable. One
striking feature of each of the girls who died was the giftedness of each of their lives.
They had obviously very distinct personalities but all of them were gifted and good people
who graced life and graced their families with their presence over their short span of
years. Noone could certainly say that their lives were in vain. During their short span
of life they brought great joy to their families. They will never leave your thoughts,
nor will their memory ever fade. That is as it should be. However their goodness and
giftedness makes the parting all the more painful.
Many have walked with you on that journey. The horrific accident spoke deeply to many.
The words of Paul in our 2nd reading applies to them. ‘The life and death of each of us
has its influence on others’. Their lives certainly touched many others and their deaths
evoked reflection on the part of people everywhere. As someone put it this time last year
there cannot have been a parent in the country did not give an extra hug to their child.
I welcome the initiative of the girls in Loreto who survived the crash. They wished to
honour the memory of their companions that died. One of the key rings remembers the five
while another has the simple yet profound message: ‘life is a gift’. One would wish that
all young people would take it on board and seek to live it.
As parents who have experienced this enormous pain you don’t have to be persuaded how
precious a gift the lives of your children were to you and your extended families. We
commend Aimee, Clare, Deirdre, Lisa and Sinead to the welcoming embrace of God’s love.
We pray that you will continue to find the courage and strength to walk this journey of
pain and loss and that in your pain you will reach out to support and comfort others
who are also called to walk the same painful journey. May they rest in peace.
Bishop of Meath