25 June 2011
Homily of Bishop Denis Brennan for funeral Mass of Fr Aidan Kavanagh R.I.P.
‘’ When I die ‘’ George Bernard Shaw said ‘’ I want to be all used up.’’ Those words very accurately describe the passing of the late Parish Priest of Bree, Fr Aidan Kavanagh.
When his home call came last Wednesday morning his life was indeed ‘’ all used up.’’ All used up living out the call of his priesthood, all used up serving his people, all used up living the gospel.
On a human level this is a very sad day for Fr Aidan’s family, for the people of Bree, Galbally and Ballyhogue, for his brother priests in the diocese.
Here in Bree Fr Aidan was a patriarchal figure. Because he was here so long he had touched practically everybody’s life in a caring, positive way.
Just take one year and think of the Baptisms, the Communions, the Weddings, the Funerals, the house calls, the parish meetings, the school visits, the BOM business, the hospital visits, the phone calls, receiving parishioners in the Parochial House, keeping the parish records and accounts.
Just think of that for a moment……….then multiply it by thirty…….and you have some idea of his role in the life of this community over the past three decades.
Fr Aidan was liked and admired by all who knew him. Among his clerical colleagues he was known affectionately as the ‘’ High Priest ‘’ in deference to his height! He was liked because he was a man with no guile, a man of obvious sincerity and good will.
He was admired because he gave himself unselfishly and completely to his priesthood – and to his people. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that over the years Fr Aidan became a role model for us all.
Here in Bree Fr Aidan didn’t confine himself to clerical activities and in summertime he was a familiar figure on his ride-on mower! I often used to say that when Fr Aidan retired he would have to be replaced by a priest and a FAS man!
All you had to do to bring a glint to his eye in springtime was to inquire ‘’ did you cut any grass yet?’’
That is why we all feel a sense of sadness today, coming to terms with the realisation that this huge, caring presence, which has been part of our lives for so long, has gone from us.
On the other hand we feel a sense of gratitude that he was part of our lives for so long, part of our special moments as family, part of our special moments as parish, and part of our special moments as diocese.
A martyr bishop Oscar Romero has written of priests ‘’ we plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.’’
Fr Aidan did that faithfully in many parts of the diocese over the past fifty three years, he planted seeds that one day will grow, seeds of faith and hope, seeds of belief and encouragement, in addition he carefully nourished and cultivated seeds that others had sown before him.
Only the people in the places he served will know the difference his priesthood has made in their lives;
Bride St, Wx:’77-‘79
Rowe St, Wx:’79-‘81
Bree: ’81to the present time.
In all of these places Fr Aidan brought a warmth and a wisdom forged on his own spiritual journey, a caring presence garnered from his own experience of life and priesthood over the years.
Fr Aidan didn’t do spectaculars, he didn’t need to, his life of quiet service spoke for itself. Three years ago we celebrated his Golden Jubilee here in Bree, it was a wonderful occasion, an occasion full of pride, gratitude and appreciation.
I said on that occasion and I repeat it today ‘’ Fr Aidan has lived out his priesthood in a remarkably faithful way. He has truly been a shepherd to his people, always there for them.
Over the past 30 years his presence here in Bree has been almost unbroken, he has always been here. In an age of rotas and rosters, job sharing and flexi-breaks, this is an amazing record of service.
It speaks more eloquently than words about Fr Aidan’s sense of priesthood, about his wish to shepherd and to serve.’’
My abiding memory of that Jubilee is the pride and affection of the people of Bree for Fr Aidan and his happiness at the way the parish celebrated that milestone in his life.
A comment one parishioner passed to me that night has stayed with me ever since. Speaking of Fr Aidan he said ‘’ I never met a man so wrapped up in his priesthood.’’
That remark was a very accurate appraisal of Fr Aidan, priesthood wasn’t something he did, it was something he was! Being a priest wasn’t a job he did, it was his life!
That’s why the words of the apostle Paul in our First Reading today are so appropriate, they obviously refer to Paul himself, but they are a pretty good description of the life and ministry of Fr Aidan Kavanagh too ’’ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’’
May his gentle soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, Rest in Peace.
Rev John Carroll, Ferns: 053-9122177
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