Homily of Father Charlie Byrne PP for the Funeral Mass of Declan Small RIP

23 Mar 2014

“Declan’s Miraculous Medal that he wore, the Rosary Beads that he carried with him, and the statue of Saint Joseph the Worker that he placed in the house which he was building, capture elements of a faith instilled in him by his parents Margaret and Joe.  It is part of Declan’s life that brings comfort to us now” – Father Byrne

We have all experienced an unexpected power cut when the lights go out.  Sudden death of a loved one is like that, one minute the sun is shining and everyone is smiling, then without the slightest warning or the chance to prepare ourselves we are plunged into darkness.  In the space of a moment our whole life is turned upside down.

The news of Declan’s death on Thursday evening brought devastating shock to the Small family, his family circle, friends and the local community here in Mayobridge.  An overwhelming sense of compassion was and is felt for his family, his mother Margaret his brothers Micheal, Shane and Anrai, his girlfriend Bernie and many friends.  Words are woefully inadequate to express the pain and sorrow in our hearts that we have for the family.

We all, in a sense, felt numb and wondered why this should happen to Declan and to such a good family?  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all whose hearts are broken.   This great gift of life we have received from God our creator is a treasure.  It is precious but it is fragile.  We all hope that we ourselves and our loved ones live to old age but this does not always happen.  When death comes to someone young and under tragic circumstances as Declan’s has, it robs us of not only what we possess but of our hopes and dreams, so many plans, so many expectations can be no more.  No mother expects to bury her child no matter what the age.

Amidst the darkness of what has happened our funeral Mass today is a challenge for all of us to rise above our grief – for when we bring the vision of God into the picture we are not without hope.  Jesus joins us in our hour of sorrow, today He asks us to offer Him the weight of our grief, the sacrifice of our tears and He will support us.  Christ opens our minds and hearts to understand that beyond death there is an Eternal Life, which He has won for us with His own death on the Hill of Calvary.

Our First Reading today from the Book of Ecclesiastes has told us that there is a time and season for everything. “A time to be born and a time to die”.  We know that it is God’s wish that we have life and live it to the full but through sickness or accident this does not always happen.  No matter what our age, God is always ready to welcome us.  We mourn the loss of Declan’s precious young life but we can take comfort that God has welcomed him home.

Our Second Reading from Saint Paul to the Romans says to us that nothing shall separate us from the love of God.  The God that loved Declan in life is the God that has welcomed him home in death.

Our Gospel today from Saint Matthew, comforts us with Jesus words “come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.  Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls”.

Declan was well known for his love of family, love of life and steadfast faith, the eldest of Joe and Margaret Small’s family of four.  On leaving school he trained as a joiner with Small Brothers and was with them for about six years.  He then took a job with his uncle Joe.  After about seven years with Joe he went to work for Lord Ballyedmond at Norbrook and Ballyedmond Castle.  In time he became foreman and his work often took him over seas.  Lately he was working in Gillingham near Norfolk.  Declan was a very skilled craftsman and always took great pride and joy in his work.  He was highly respected and very well thought of by all who worked with him and often was fondly referred to as Lord Ballyedmond’s right hand man.

Declan’s father Joe was in failing health for many years with multiple sclerosis, and from a very young age Declan was a great support to his mother in looking after his father who died seven years ago this May.  Declan was very caring towards his mother as she was to him.  When working away from home he kept in touch with her  regularly by phone and had called her twice on the Thursday he died.  He often had an early start on a Monday morning leaving home at 4:00am to get to the airport and his mother would be up to see him off.  Declan loved sport and played Gaelic football with Mayobridge  until the age of sixteen and continued to be an active supporter.  Declan was a member of Mayobridge golf club and also of a local darts team.   He was much loved by his many friends and was renowned for his quick wit, always game for a laugh.  This past few years Declan has been building a new house for himself beside the family home.  He was looking forward to soon having it completed and had found happiness with his girlfriend Bernie.

Declan’s Miraculous Medal that he wore, the Rosary Beads that he carried with him, and the statue of Saint Joseph the Worker that he placed in the house which he was building, capture elements of a faith instilled in him by his parents Margaret and Joe.  It is part of Declan’s life that brings comfort to us now.

Declan’s life has been cut short.  He has died too suddenly, too soon, but it is a tragedy that has allowed us to see the remarkable impact which Declan has made on those in his life.  This was evident in the number of people young and old who lined the road in a candle-lit guard of honour for his homecoming on Friday night.  So today we give thanks for Declan’s life, and we pray that the Lord will be a strength and comfort to his mother Margaret, his brothers Micheal, Shane and Anrai, his sister-in-law Suzanne, his girlfriend Bernie, all the family circle and Declan’s many good friends and colleagues.

We remember in our prayer too Lord Ballyedmond’s family and the families of the two pilots Carl Dickerson and Lee Hoyle.  May the Lord be a strength and comfort to them all.  We pray now that Declan is in the company of God, the giver of life, along with his father Joe and all who have gone before him.  May Declan rest in peace.


  • Father Charlie Byrne delivered his homily during 1:00 o’clock Mass today in the Church of Saint Patrick in the Parish of Mayobridge, County Down, in the Diocese of Dromore.  Father Byrne is Parish Priest of Mayobridge Parish.

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