Introduction to the funeral of Noah Donohoe
Fr Michael McGinnity
Today across Belfast and far beyond it, there are countless people holding you Fiona and your family in their thoughts and prayers. Since the news of Noah’s tragic death emerged, a tangible sense of shock and disbelief has gripped the community. So many people are consumed by a sadness that cannot be put into words.
People everywhere are united in their heart -felt sympathy towards you Fiona, your parents Gerry and Margo, towards your sisters Niamh and Shona and the wider family circle. None of us can begin to imagine the depth of your sorrow and the visceral depth of your grief. At the same time, we gather here in St. Patrick’s church, very conscious of your gratitude to so many people who have reached out to you as a family in your hour of need.
We think today of people from across the community who took to the streets, day after day, in search of Noah. We also remember the police and rescue teams who were relentless in their efforts to find him. We think of St. Malachy’s College; a school community that Noah was so proud to belong to. Indeed right now, students from Noah’s form class are attending a prayer service in the College, united in heart-felt sympathy for Noah’s family. Together they will be remembering the joy and goodness that Noah brought into the lives of so many people.
We also hold in our hearts today Noah’s friends as they come to terms with their devastating loss. We remember the messages they sent to Noah’s family, and the many tributes they paid to Noah on social media and across the airwaves. Those messages and tributes have been a source of immense comfort to Noah’s heart-broken family.
During the days of searching for Noah, his family were also very conscious of being carried by the prayers of so many people. We remember them with gratitude today. As we begin this requiem Mass we stand united in prayer for one another and for all who are reaching out in love to you Fiona and your family at this time of deep sadness.
Homily of Father Michael McGinnity for the Requiem Mass of Noah Donohoe
Today we have come to St. Patrick’s church to celebrate this requiem Mass for Noah. Ever since he and his mother Fiona came to live in Belfast , this church has been their spiritual home where they found peace and a strong sense of God’s presence in their lives. It is here that they were often drawn to pray before the image of Mary our mother as depicted in the beautiful triptych of the Madonna of the Lakes down on the right hand side of the church. It was here, in this church that Fiona taught Noah as a child to thank God for his life and to remember that he, like every child , has been sent into the world to share God’s love with everyone.
Growing up in Belfast, Noah met life with a sense of wonder at everything around him and in him. He had a natural curiosity about life. Every day he wanted to know more about the world and his place in it. Noah was the kind of boy who was just full of the joy of living. Whether he was on the Basketball court or playing his cello, or just having fun with friends he savoured every moment. He was passionate about everything he turned his hand to. And he wanted everyone to share that passion with him.
One of his close friends said on social media during the week, ‘Noah had so much potential in everything he did.’ Of course what endeared him to his friends was the fact that he carried that potential so lightly and so humbly. As a natural leader he wanted everyone to appreciate their own gifts and talents. More than that, he wanted them to find the joy in living that he had found.
So much has been written and said about Noah that has touched the hearts of everyone in this city. But what has stayed with me are the words of Fiona when she spoke to me last Sunday night. She said , ‘I have been so blessed . Noah was a beautiful soul with a beautiful mind. He poured a whole life time of love into my life in 14 short years.’ What a wonderful tribute from a mother to her son who is such a Godsend to her. It reminds me of those words from St. Paul in our second reading, ‘The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.’ How true those words are!
Noah’s influence of course extended far beyond his family. He was clearly an inspiration to many of the young people who got to know him. The pain of loss they feel today is all the greater because of it. I want to speak to Noah’s friends and class mates for a moment. In the months and years ahead I invite you to listen to what Noah’s life might have to say to you – because you too have been sent by God into this broken world. Just as Noah was a Godsend to his mum, you are called to be a Godsend to your families and to each other.
Listen to God’s word addressed to you in our first reading – God said to Jeremiah, ‘Go now to those to whom I send you and say whatever I command you.’ In other words God sends you, just as he sent Jeremiah. He sends you to let your life speak of God’s goodness. Take the risk of living life to the full and bringing the love of God to the people around you. And at the end of every day be able to say to yourself, ‘I did my best. I did my best with all the gifts God gave me’.
Some weeks ago Noah gave a poem to his mum; a poem written by Leo Buscaglia. The words of it certainly resonated in the depth of Noah’s beautiful soul. In one part it says,
‘To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure. ….. the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.’
Like all of us, Noah’s friends will struggle with the same questions we all do– questions such as: Why did God let this happen to Noah? Is God not a loving God? Were the prayers we all said for Noah’s safe return not good enough?
These are questions we will struggle with for as long as we live. Mary had to live with similar questions as she watched her son Jesus die on the cross. In the absence of any answers, Mary chose to put her trust in God’s plan for her life and the life of her son. In the end He did not abandon her. And he will not abandon us.
Today we announce that Jesus has conquered death. It has no more power over him. By his resurrection, Jesus says to us what he says to Noah, ‘I love you and I want to be with you forever.’