Information for the media on the order of service for the Funeral Liturgy in Holy Family Church, Derry

24 Mar 2016

Please see below information for the media regarding the Funeral Liturgy for Ruth Daniels RIP, Jodie Lee Daniels RIP, Sean McGrotty RIP, Mark McGrotty RIP and Evan McGrotty RIP, which takes place today in the Holy Family Church, Derry at 2.00pm, including:

  • Readings, Gospel, music and hymns
  • Homily Notes of Parish priest Father Patrick O’Kane
  • Words of Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry.

Today’s liturgy is a funeral service and not a Mass because on Holy Thursday in the Catholic Church there is only one morning Mass in each diocese and one evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper in each church. Today’s service will comprise a celebration of the Word with the Final Commendation and Farewell. Holy Communion will not be distributed.

Please check against delivery

Order of Service:

Melody by Saint Joseph’s Traditional group

Opening Hymn
Saint Mary’s School Choir

Welcome and introduction
by Father Patrick O’ Kane, Parish priest of Ballymagroarty

We are plunged in grief.  Even the heavens are crying. Five beautiful people have been taken tragically from our midst.  Five people whom we loved. Not just this family, this community, this country, but also people from all over the world are united with us in grief. We gather today to ask God to have mercy on the souls of Ruth Daniels, Jodie Lee Daniels,  Sean Mc Grotty, Mark Mc Grotty and Evan Mc Grotty. I welcome you, the grieving family.

I welcome Bishop Donal McKeown,  Bishop Ken Good, my fellow priests , Frs. Frank Bradley and John Walsh from Buncrana.  Fr Michael McCaughey from The Three Patrons,  Fr. Joe Gormley from Creggan, Fr. Patrick Lagan  and Fr Paul Farren, our M.C., from St. Eugene’s.

I welcome Commandant Louise Conlon here to represent President Michael D Higgins, Kieran Carey here to represent the Taoiseach and Martin Mc Guinness, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister.

Noel, you have lost a son.

Shannon and Patrick, you have lost a dad.

Arthur, your two grandchildren, Mary, your nephew.

Jim, Marie, Tony, Frank, Dermot, you have lost your brother.

Nathan, Jonathan, Kyle and Joshua you have lost your mother and your sister.

But you Louise, you are most bereft of all for you have lost  your family and our hearts go out to you especially.  I know there are no words I can say here to express the depth of your heartbreak, no words to take away your pain or alleviate your sorrow.

I invite you who grieve to bring these mixed up feelings of  shock, emptiness, anger, loneliness, fear and the uncertainty which overwhelm you today, I invite you to bring these feelings honestly before the Lord asking Him for strength in this time of darkness, asking Him to hold on to you even if you find it hard today to hold on to Him. And to be near you, even if you feel him far away.  Yes, we are sad because their lives have been cut short but as people of faith- in this special week of grace -we pray that for them eternal life has just begun- and while conscious of the pain of  separation- we are confident we shall meet again.

Before we begin Louise invites you for a moment to share with her some of her memories of her  beautiful family. This will be followed by the bringing up of symbols of their lives, carried by the school friends of the children.

Procession of symbols with melody in background

Symbols will be brought forward by: Tom, Ryan, Kane, Courtney and Taylor:

Tom is Evan’s best friend from Saint Eithne’s Primary School

Ryan and Kane are friends of Mark from Saint Joseph’s Secondary School

Taylor and Courtney are friends of Jodi Lee from Saint Mary’s Secondary School

Opening Prayer
Merciful Lord, whose ways are beyond human understanding, we ask you to have mercy on the souls of Ruth, Jodie Lee , Sean, Mark and Evan.  We thank you for their love, their care, and their friendship.  Reward them for their goodness and surround them with your peace. Comfort all who grieve with that  peace that comes from you alone. We ask this…..

First Reading by Mary Hamilton (Sean’s aunt)  inviting us to find our strength in the Lord

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah (35:3-6.10)

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.  Say to those who are of fearful heart, ‘Be Strong, do no fear!  Here is your God.  He will come and save you’.

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped: then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.  And the ransomed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with singing: everlasting joy will be upon their heads; they will obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

This is the Word of the Lord

Saint Eithne’s School Choir

Second Reading by Pat Mc Laughlin (Sean’s cousin) telling us to love one another

A reading from the first letter of Saint John. (1 John 4:7-12.17)

Let us love one another, for love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love, does not know God for God is love.

God’s love was revealed among us in this way;  God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God;  if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgement.

This is the word of the Lord.

Gospel Acclamation


A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke. (23:33.39-43)

When they came to a place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one of his right and one on his left.  One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding Jesus and saying ‘Are you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us’.

But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong’.  Then he said ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’.  And Jesus replied  ‘Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise’.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

Homily Speaking Notes of Father O’Kane
When the news broke on Sunday evening that a terrible accident had happened on Buncrana pier my prayers for the dead and bereaved included a prayer for the priest who would have to face the family and at the funeral try to make sense of this tragedy.  Little did I think I was praying for myself.  Then at seven o’ clock on Monday morning I got a call ‘It’s Louise James here, Fr Paddy’ she said ‘that was my husband, my children, my mother, my sister that died yesterday evening.’  Stunned, I later made my way to her home where the grief was palpable.  Grown men stood, red eyed, in silence.  Words could not come to my lips to put any shape on what I felt inside.  A reverend silence felt more appropriate as  I gripped her hand. As I kissed her cheek, I tasted the salt of her tears. ‘I am so, so sorry’ was all I could muster, and  I hoped it was enough.  There comes a time when you struggle with doubt and darkness, when you stand on the brink of emptiness and despair, of anguish, fear and loneliness, that you are tempted to ask ‘Is there a God? And if there is, where is He now?  If you are a God of kindness and compassion, come out of your hiding place and show yourself! Tomorrow, Good Friday, we will hear Christ on the Cross scream out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ We can make our own that lonely, painful prayer of desolation today.

We struggle today to find words to speak the unspeakable.  We are bewildered by the intensity of this grief for I know Louise that – as I have already said- there is nothing I can say today to alleviate your pain and sense of loss.  This is a desert experience, barren of any comfort, as we search for an oasis of hope in this bleak landscape   and as we struggle to find   there any refreshing words of life and healing.  When I visited the funeral home on Tuesday morning and saw the five coffins, their occupants so peaceful in that sleep we call death,  I broke down in tears.  I was bereft and deep sighs came from my heart.  When finally prompted to pray by the undertaker, the words seemed to echo, so empty and hollow.

And yet there is one little sliver of light, one ray of hope bravely breaking through the dark clouds and it is this-little Rioghnach Ann has been saved.  As Louise says to me again and again ‘She is my only reason to go on living’.  I baptised her at this font on 23rd January in the company of her parents Louise and Sean, her godparents Joshua and Gemma and her extended family.  The day before I paid them a visit at St. Eithne’s Park where they made me welcome and asked me to bless their beautiful little family home. While I was there I  was told that  little Evan had muscular dystrophy and how Louise has so far raised £16,000 for that charity including a tandem parachute jump from 14,000 feet. Two weeks ago we were gathered as a family again  when he made his First Confession – that same  little Evan  who, when his mother phoned him at five to seven on Sunday evening as they sat on the Pier to watch the sunset, said  ‘Mammy I miss you  so much.  I am going to give you the biggest, tightest   hug you ever got, when I see you again’.    We were also here last May when Mark received the Sacrament of Confirmation and last July when Ann,  Sean’s younger sister died from cancer.  I also knew the Daniels family from the time I was a young priest in the Bogside during the 1970s. Later I will invite the principals of their schools, Damien Harkin and Marie Lyndsey, to say a few words about the children, together with comments from Jim about his brother Sean and Joshua about his mother Ruth.

On this Holy Thursday in the liturgy of the Church we find Jesus washing the dusty feet of his friends.  If our faith remains only as words it is empty.  Today Jesus tells us not to be self-centred, but self-giving, not to be hard hearted but life giving for actions speak louder than words. It is not about ‘what’s in it for me or us?’ but about ‘what’s in it for others?’  We are called to reach out in service to those around us so that the Kingdom of God  may come  among us  and  perhaps, just perhaps, because of us, as the first reading you heard  challenged  us,  the blind can see  a bit more clearly, the lame  man can walk with only one crutch, the deaf hear the song of their own hearts, the mute speak a few mumbled words and the poor feel a little more enriched.  We saw it in the self-sacrifice of Sean on Sunday evening as he desperately tried to save his family. We saw that altruism again in the bravery of Davitt Walsh who saved the life of Rioghnach Ann by swimming out to rescue her. Davitt, today we salute you as our hero. We had a meeting in our Parochial house on Tuesday when Louise and her family met you to thank you for all you did and also your girlfriend Stephanie Knox for her quick thinking as she warmed the baby’s little blue body back to life.  Louise thanked you both sincerely from the bottom of her heart and for trying to save the lives of her sons. “Don’t blame yourself that you did not do more – we are so grateful for what you did” she says. Davitt once played senior football and he looks a fit man, all of which stood to him in his ordeal. “It could easily have been seven deaths, not five “ Louise added, before passing the baby to Davitt to hold. She opened her beautiful blue eyes, smiled up at him and had a big yawn.

We saw that generosity of spirit in Frances Crawford and others who raised the alarm, in the emergency services who responded to the call for help – for they did all that was humanly possible to resuscitate the bodies which thankfully were recovered immediately. We saw it in the way this community has rallied around Louise and all those who grieve here today. The kindness of strangers is another ray of light to lift us from our darkness.

Louise, your faith is strong as I hear you say how your sons Mark and Evan, partner Sean, mother Ruth and Jody-Lee your only sister, are now reunited in heaven with your little baby Joshua who lived for only seventeen hours. You are just going to have to wait a little longer ‘until you get that tight hug promised to you from Evan.

When our backs are against the wall and we have nowhere else to turn sometimes all we can do is cry out with Christ’s disciples. ‘Lord, to whom else can we go for you alone possess the words of eternal life?’

Prayers of the Faithful

A boy from Saint Joseph’s Secondary School

A girl from Saint Mary’s Secondary School

Saint Joseph’s School Choir: Stay with me

Lord’s Prayer and sign of peace

Reflection by Father O’Kane

The Musician by the Anglican priest -poet RS Thomas( last verse).

‘So it must have been on Calvary
In the fiercer light of the thorns’ halo:
The men standing by and that one figure,
The hands bleeding, the mind bruised but calm, making such music as lives still.
And no one daring to interrupt
Because it was himself that he played
And closer than all of them the God listened.

Closing Prayers by Father O’ Kane
Prayer in Difficult Times
[Adapted from Joyce Rupp]

Consoling God, be a source of serenity when at times like today, struggles and difficulties threaten to overwhelm us.
God of Hope, assure us of your unconditional love when in times like today we doubt or question the message that you care.
Truth-bringing God encourage us to embrace you during those time when like today we feel defeated by the lies of our own weakness.
Compassionate God, hold us to your heart when at times like today we feel broken and helpless in the face of the world’s pain.
Light-filled God keep us close to you during these times like today when all that is bleak and dark seems to encircle everything.
Comforting God Shelter us under your wings when on days like this we are engulfed in sadness and overcome with distress.
God of Peace Be the centre of our lives, A secure refuge when in times like this we lose our balance in the whirlwind of our pain.
As we look to you today for strength grant us now- in our darkest hour -that little spark of hope  which hints that being lost is also a place of grace.

Saint Eithne’s School  Choir: We Come To You Lord Jesus

To Mark and Evan by Damien Harkin, Principal of Saint Joseph’s School.
To Jodi Lee by Marie Lyndsey, Principal of Saint Mary’s Secondary School.
To Sean by his brother Jim McGrotty.
To Ruth by her son Joshua Daniels.

A poem and words of thanks from Louise.

Saint Mary’s School Choir:  Remember Me

Closing Prayer
To you O Lord we humbly entrust Ruth, Jodie Lee, Sean, Mark and Evan. Take them into your loving arms and welcome them into Paradise to be with little Joshua again, where there is no more sorrow, weeping or pain but only  the fullness of peace and joy.  May they continue to care for their families and friends as they did in this  life.  May the radiance of your glory ease our sore hearts today and bring us safely through the shadows of this world  until we reach  our homeland with you.  That place  where tears will be wiped away,  where death will be no more, where all our yearnings for love and beauty will be satisfied forever in your gaze.   Give us the certainty that beyond death there is a place where broken things are mended, where the lost are found, where there is rest for the weary and joy for the sad, and where we will meet our loved ones again.   We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Words of Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry
These have been sombre days, not only in this city but right across this island. The banks of daffodils seemed to wave naively in the face of the horror that happened in a few minutes on an apparently harmless pier at Buncrana. And the news of the awful events in Brussels underlined just how fragile life can be.

The wider community here has responded magnificently to the unspeakable tragedy that has afflicted Louise and the wider family circle. For this bereavement has affected many members of the extended family who have also lost close relations and friends in Sean, Ruth, Jodie-Lee, Mark and Evan. The community has tapped into a great wellspring of goodness that has helped to counteract the awful toxin of sudden death. We heard heartrending stories of courage on Sunday evening and we have listened to beautiful words from those most sorely afflicted by the awful loss. The schools attended by Jodie-Lee, Mark and Evan – St Mary’s, St Joseph’s and St Eithne’s – have drawn on their deep resources of compassion and faith in order to help the pupils articulate their loss and their incomprehension. Their musical and other contributions reflect their generosity and sense of identity and help all of us to see glimmers of hope in the lives that the young people still have to live. For, as at the foot of the Cross, we all stand speechless at what we have seen and heard. Young people, believe in the beauty of life at all stages and in all circumstances. It is precious beyond measure. Never put it at risk even when you face what you think are insurmountable problems.

For many others in our community, these tragic days will bring back memories of personal loss and tragedy, awakening trauma that they experienced over the years. The scars of personal tragedies lurk in the hearts of so many people. But on days like this the language of faith is still very close to the surface. That is why this is such a compassionate and resourceful city.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all those in wider civic society who have so much to make these terrible events flow as smoothly as possible. Derry City and Strabane Council – under the direction of John Kelpie – has put many resources at our disposal to ensure that things run smoothly. And the PSNI are playing an important role in managing traffic.

The Cross that we celebrate on Good Friday is not an escape from reality. It invites us to face painful reality with trust that love is stronger than hate, life stronger than death, hope more powerful than despair. This will be a very long Holy Week for Louise and other members of the family. But together and with God’s grace we can face it. Calvary looms over us – but, for people of faith, the hope of Easter still lurks around the corner. For love and life are stronger than death and the bitterest tragedy.

Final Commendation and Farewell.

Closing Hymn
Saint Mary’s Choir:
Voice of an Angel


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long in Derry 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444.