6 April 2011
Cardinal Brady’s remarks and homily of Fr John Skinnader
at the funeral Mass of Constable Ronan Kerr
“Parents and grandparents, I beg you, plead with your children and with your grandchildren, not to get involved with violence … Violence has nothing, absolutely nothing, to offer except misery and destruction. Choose life, I say, choose goodness, choose peace. That is what God is asking of you. That is what the people of all traditions have been saying to all of us, loud and clear, since the moment of Ronan’s tragic death on Saturday last … In God’s name stop – and stop now!” – Cardinal Brady
“Ronan loved life – his friends – his family, and he loved his new career.” – Fr John Skinnader
The funeral Mass of Constable Ronan Kerr took place at 12:00pm today in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the parish of Beragh, County Tyrone, in the Archdiocese of Armagh.
Father Arthur McAnerney, Parish Priest of Beragh was the main celebrant at the Mass; Father John Skinnader CSSp, a family friend, preached the homily; and Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, presided at the Mass. Cardinal Brady was accompanied in the Sanctuary of the church by the three other main Christian Church leaders of Ireland: Archbishop Alan Harper, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh; Rev Norman Hamilton, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church; and Rev Paul Kingston, President of the Methodist Church.
Remarks of Cardinal Seán Brady
My dear friends,
We gather today to pay our respects to Constable Ronan Kerr. We have prayed that Ronan will know the peace of God’s eternal love in the home that Jesus has prepared for him. We are here to sympathise with his mother Nuala, his sister Dairine and brothers Aaron and Cathair. May you find comfort and strength in Christ’s promise that one day you shall see Ronan again and enjoy his friendship and love.
May you also be helped and consoled by the presence of this congregation – representing as it does, so many strata of society, civil and religious alike. May the support and admiration, expressed for Ronan and for all of you, at national and international level, over these days, ease the burden of grief and sorrow which you feel at this time.
Fifteen years ago, almost to the day – 9 April 1996, I had the privilege of confirming Ronan here in this Church. He took the name Paul, in honour of the Apostle Paul, as his Confirmation name. The same Paul who said that “nothing can come between us and the love of God, made visible in Christ Jesus”. The same Paul who said that “God co-operates with all those who love Him by turning everything to their good” (Rom 8:28). That is the challenge now for all of us who remain. To co-operate with God in transforming the evil of Ronan’s murder into the good that Ronan’s life represents.
Guided by the Spirit of the living God, Ronan proceeded on the journey of life. He went from here to Omagh CBS and to university. He did so many other things as well. He played Gaelic games; he became a respected young man in the community. As so many of his family and friends have testified in recent days he was a person who was happy, friendly and concerned for the welfare of others. Then the opportunity came his way to play his part in building the peace. He was offered the possibility of joining the PSNI, a profession charged with the safety, welfare and protection of the rights of all in our society. Imbued with the family spirit of public service Ronan took that opportunity. Of course he knew the risks involved but one of the gifts he received on the day of his Confirmation was courage.
Ronan Kerr was obviously a man of exceptional courage. Today I pay tribute to the courage, and noble ideals of people who work in the public service – in the Police Service, in the Health Service; and in the Fire and Rescue Service and many others. They deserve our gratitude and our support. We offer that to them today with admiration and respect. You are the protectors of our safety and the guardians of our peace. Guard our peace carefully for the well-being of society depends on your professionalism, integrity and dedication.
Unfortunately there are some people who do not believe that Ronan should have joined the PSNI. They have a right to hold that view. But the freedom to hold that view also brings with it a great responsibility. It brings the duty to respect the will of the overwhelming majority of the people. And the people have said no, never again, to the evil and futility of violence. They have said an empathetic no to the murder and mayhem of the past. Let there be no doubt that the killing of Ronan Kerr, was totally unjustified. It was an evil deed, an offence against God and a complete rejection of the belief that human life is sacred.
There have been many defining moments in the ongoing journey towards reconciliation and peace. No doubt there will be many more. That is the nature of a process. But today, as we honour the courage of this valiant young man, may we all resolve to make this a defining moment in our own lives. We must never become complacent about choosing good and rejecting evil. Let us resolve to do everything in our power to bring about the brighter future which the young people of this land deserve.
Of course there is now a whole generation of young people who have no memory of the troubles and the sufferings of the past. We should resist the temptation to glamorise the dreadful pain and sorrow of that past. Parents and grandparents, I beg you, plead with your children and with your grandchildren, not to get involved with violence. Never let them be deceived by those who say that Ireland will be united or the Union made more secure by war. They are wrong. It is an illusion. Violence has nothing, absolutely nothing, to offer except misery and destruction. Choose life, I say, choose goodness, choose peace. That is what God is asking of you. That is what the people of all traditions have been saying to all of us, loud and clear, since the moment of Ronan’s tragic death on Saturday last. “We do not want this”. “You do not act in our name”. In God’s name stop – and stop now!
The presence of so many politicians here today is very much appreciated. Your united and decisive response to Ronan’s death has given us all great inspiration and hope. I believe that Ronan would have been very proud to see political leaders united with such determination to honour and uphold the peace which he gave his life to preserve. Many believe and sincerely hope that a better future is possible for all. Standing shoulder to shoulder together now is the surest way of overcoming those who would rob us, and future generations, of that hope.
The widespread expression of disgust and the rejection of violence in recent days – not just in Beragh and Omagh – but throughout the length and breadth of this land, and indeed further afield, strengthen the hope of us all.
Sometimes, however, condemnation and rejection are not enough to free hearts and minds held captive by hatred and bitterness. That is a task to which only the power of the Spirit of the Risen Christ is equal. He has conquered sin and death so that life and peace and harmony might flourish. That process of transformation and change is still in progress. May the memory of Ronan Paul Kerr and the dignified witness of his grieving mother Nuala and her family continue to guide and inspire our journey towards lasting justice, peace and reconciliation. Then we will truly be able to say that his death has not been in vain.
Homily of Fr John Skinnader CSSp
Even the Liturgy today will struggle to give any sort of comfort to Ronan’s mum Nuala, his brothers Caithair and Aaron, his sister Dairine, his aunts Geraldine and Carmel, and his uncles Hugh, Jimmy, Patrick and Kieran, and his other relatives.
We have come together here with family, friends, neighbours and people from all walks of life to share our distress at the sudden and callous nature of Ronan’s death and to pray our goodbyes for him.
Ronan loved life – he loved others – and that is the legacy he has left us – not to hate but to love.
I met Ronan only two weeks ago – I had just finished giving my talk to the young couples who had gathered for marriage preparation course in the Manor House – Enniskillen – when I went outside to go home and when I was walking towards my car when I saw the Police car slowing coming towards me . I thought to myself – what have you done now John – when the window rolled down and a voice from behind the wheel shouts out to me “How are you, Fr John?” I looked into the car and said “Ronan – tis yourself” and nearly knocked the head of the big English cop sitting in the passenger seat as I thrust over my hand to shake Ronan’s hand as I had not met him in months. “How do you like Enniskillen Fr John?” I said, “Ronan you can drop the titles as it wasn’t that long ago that you and your brothers Caithair and Aaron as young cubs up in your aunt Geraldine’s place used to pick out of me and shout Fr Ted or Fr Jack!!!”
I chatted with him online on Thursday last and now he has gone – not easy for me to deal with and how much more for Nuala and the children – aunts and uncles and grandparents.
Ronan loved life – from an early age when he was in the cot of at the bottom of the bed where Cathair slept – he would get Caithair to pull him out of the cot in the morning so that both of them could begin a day of high mischief. When Nuala returned from hospital with Aaron – she was tired the next day and thought that her late husband Brian was home from work and looking after the boys. So it was a major shock for her and Brian to find that the two boys had got bubble bath of all kinds from the bathroom and decided to clean up the sitting room by emptying the bottles over carpets and furniture – there was foam, bubbles and water all over the place and people coming for Aaron’s Christening that night. Nuala took on her sergeant major look and got the boys to clean up the whole mess and then sent them to bed – and hence they missed Aaron’s christening. From an early age he had a great interest in games involving police cars – toy weapons, backpacks etc. Ronan, Cathair and Aaron would lie behind the hedge of their house and look at the number plates of cars that were passing by and then did an imagined radioing of their number plates to someone in the back garden. He had a great interest in cars and was looking forward to showing off his new car to Cathair who was due home from Australia. He was a practical joker and gave Dairine a hard time by teasing his sister all the time and picking out of her but she got her own back on him a few days ago when on the first of April she texted him at work to say that Cathair had arrived home unexpectedly from Australia as a surprise for Mum. He texted back to say “Please tell me this is not true” as he so much wanted to be there when Cathair came home. So Dairine just texted back “April Fool!!!”
He loved his Gaelic football and never missed a Tyrone match. Ronan loved life – his friends – his family, and he loved his new career. Seeing him sitting behind the wheel of the police car last weekend – I thought to myself – there is the symbol of the new Northern Ireland – a young man living out his childhood dream to be of service to others – to help protect, to make life safer for others – to be a peace builder in communities and between communities.
Ronan loved Man Utd – hopefully he will put in a good word for us against Chelsea tonight! When the satellite television came into Ethiopia a few years ago – an enterprising young man put in a big screen into the town hall where I was living to show the Premiership matches being beamed from South Africa. One Sunday afternoon – the hall was packed with United and Arsenal supporters coming to cheer on United and Arsenal. As the match progressed – they began to shout abuse at each other and soon they started to fight – to the extent that the game had to be switched off and all of us had to leave the hall. I came away thinking – isn’t it crazy that the Ethiopians should be fighting each other over two English teams that they had never met in real life – they had never been to Manchester or London – no real connection to the teams – yet destroyed our afternoon’s entrainment because of what they saw as perceived grievances of one team against another. We can become very caught up and delusional about what we are fighting over – whether it is a United Ireland, United Kingdom or a Man United.
In the Gospel Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here my brother would not have died”. Jesus wept. Were they crocodile tears? Surely he knew he was going to raise Lazarus to life, so why did he cry? He cried because in Martha’s tears He saw all the tears of the mothers who would lose their children. Maybe He was crying for His own mother Mary who He knew the pain she would go through as as He lay dying on the Cross of Calvary. Because God gave us free will – which is the essence of being human – it also means we are free to do good or bad and with that freedom – we have our broken humanity – a humanity that is caught between love and hate – joy and pain – sorrow and happiness. As the Jews in the Gospels said to Martha, “He opened the eyes of the blind – could He not have prevented this man death?” By raising Lazarus to life again He showed that He has power over life and death but as God He wanted to show through His tears that life eternal is where we are all going to and if someone wants to perpetuate and evil act to destroys someone life – God cannot intervene to stop it because of free will.
Ronan and most of his generation are proud of their culture and their faith tradition – but for them it is a faith and a tradition without walls –– that is inclusive not exclusive – that unites rather than divides. As Nuala, Cathair, Aaron and Dairine called for in their press release after Ronan’s death – they don’t want his death to be in vain but that others should join in the vision that he had for a new and better homeland of the future. Our participation in this funeral liturgy, the recent statements from all political parties and the world wide media coverage of his death shows that his death, like Christ’s, has not been in vain but will galvanise everyone to work with greater zeal and vigour for the future good of all. But it doesn’t lessen the pain of his loss for family, friends and colleagues.
May You Rest in Peace Ronan. We all miss you.
Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678