Please find below a transcript of the homily delivered by Father Martin Magill at the Funeral of Conor McKee held this morning in Sacred Heart parish, Belfast:
In December last year, Catholics around the world began a Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis as an opportunity to reflect on and imitate the mercy of the Father. During a Requiem Mass, I often refer to this Year of Mercy and point out how in all our lives, we need God’s mercy. Central to the Requiem Mass is God’s mercy and in this Requiem Mass, we come to pray for God’s mercy for Conor. We don’t come to judge, instead we pray that God will forgive Conor his earthly faults and failings and bring him to the light and peace of heaven. In the funeral liturgy, we pray that the one who has died may see the Redeemer “face to face” and enter into the light of God’s face.
As well as praying for Conor, we pray for his heartbroken family – sudden death at any time is traumatic but ever more so when Conor’s death was so brutally taken. Since last Thursday night, there has been a huge outpouring of support and care for you his family. Michelle’s home has had countless visitors over the course of the last week with people coming to offer sympathy, love and practical support. I had the opportunity to comment to Conor’s parents Tommy and Margaret how amazing the whole family has been during this horrendous ordeal; Tommy commented back to me: “we have been surrounded by such good people”. It is at such times that a strong community comes into its own – I want to pay particular tribute to the people of the parish community and well beyond who have rallied round you – neighbours to friends, teachers from Sacred Heart and Our Lady’s Primary Schools where Aidan and Gracie are pupils and so many more. I want to acknowledge especially the amazing loving support which has come from the Cursillo community of which you Tommy and Margaret are such an important part.
I want to reflect now on Conor’s life. There were the good times and the very good times from his birth on 8th August 1984, growing up and going to school in this parish and area, his work with father’s business in earlier years, then later with his brother-in-law Julian. Conor found in his partner Michelle, his childhood sweetheart who was such a support to him through the good times and bad. Conor loved his family, his partner, his children, his parents and his siblings. In his earlier days he was a very talented Gaelic footballer. Latterly, he was an ardent Celtic and Cliftonville fan. He knew the enjoyable relaxing times of family life – a quiet evening in, “a wee munch”, chilling with the family and watching DVDs. There were the happy times of going to the caravan in Carnlough. There was the first family holiday abroad in Spain last August.
Unfortunately, there were also the bad times from when he started to use drugs at an early age. Those early choices led him into shadows and darkness. In making those choices, he hurt himself, those closest to him and inevitably others suffered as well. He was, as his mother Margaret described him, a “tortured soul”. Conor struggled with addiction, he was offered help in various different ways and was soon to start a recovery programme. Some of his choices took him away from the potential he had. Personally speaking, having met with him on several occasions, I was fortunate to see glimpses of what Conor could be. Along with two others from a project established to set up a dedicated centre to assist young people recover from drug and alcohol addiction, I heard Conor talk about he wanted to prevent young people making the mistakes he’d made and to help them break free from addiction. In one of my last conversations with him, which was after Mass here in this parish which he had attended along with Michelle, Aidan and Gracie, Conor told me he had been clean for a number of weeks.
Recalling Conor’s desire to help others break free, let me now appeal to those struggling with drug addiction to seek help. Know there are people who will be able to help you, know that the Church is there to offer support and direction and is not a “cold house for those struggling with addiction”. Drug use and especially heroin has caused destruction and messed up the lives of many young people even in this city. For those young people caught up in heroin addiction, whilst it is difficult to get out of that web it is not impossible. For those using drugs, let me urge you to get yourselves onto a treatment programme in order to break free. The good news is others have broken free. One of my favourite verses of scripture is from John 10:10, Jesus said: “I came that they may have life and have it to the full”. Living a life in the shadows of drug addiction is not God’s plan for any of us.
I want to turn now to the violence of last Thursday evening and to ask some questions to the person and people involved in Conor’s murder. I ask you: “what have you done to your conscience to allow you to kill Conor? How can you sleep at night? If you have children, how can you look them in the eye, knowing what you were doing last Thursday night in this community? I would love you to have heard what Conor’s parents said as we prepared for this Requiem Mass: “no parent brings a child into this world to take the life of another person”. “We’d rather be burying our son today than hiding our son because he had killed someone else”. With those words in mind, let me add my support to the appeal by the PSNI for information which will lead to the detection and arrest of Conor’s killer and those who assisted it.
In every Requiem Mass, we turn to God for his help and his grace to overcome the darkness of grief and death. We look to God for hope. As followers of Jesus, we are people who believe in the resurrection of Jesus assuring us that the grave has not the final word in the same way as the death of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday was not the end. By raising Jesus to life, God opened through him the way to eternal life. Whilst we acknowledge Conor’s life has ended, we place our hope in the Risen Christ, and we pray that Conor would be brought into the light of the face of God with his sins forgiven and the shadow of death banished forever.
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord…
Martin Magill PP
For media contact: Father Edward McGee 078111 44268