Homily of Archbishop Michael Neary on the occasion of the dedication of the new altar in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Tuam

16 Aug 2021

Céad mile fáilte romhaibh

Joining with our Administrator, Father Pat Farragher and Fr. Seán Flynn, I warmly welcome you all on this historic occasion.  Welcome to parishioners here in the Cathedral this morning, those joining us online and the Religious. 

… Nuncio

I reserve a very special welcome for His Excellency, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, representing our Holy Father Pope Francis.  Your Excellency, as we welcome you on this special occasion we are reminded of the fact that in your country you received Christ’s Gospel from Irish missionaries.  Now you come to us as our Apostolic Nuncio and in a sense this is reverse mission and we thank God for it.  We are truly honoured by your presence among us today.  It is a privilege and a pleasure for me to extend ceád míle fáilte to you on your first visit to the mother church of the Archdiocese of Tuam.

… Church of Ireland

We are honoured and grateful for the presence of representatives of the Church of Ireland community today.  They have generously made their Cathedral available to us for daily Mass during the refurbishment.  Today, we join with you in prayer to God, and you are most welcome.

The refurbishment journey

This project of the refurbishment of our Cathedral has been planned for many years.  Having gone through various consultations, changes and adaptations, we are here this morning to witness, rejoice in and thank God for this day.  It has been an on-going challenge, coping with the Covid lockdowns, and securing alternative venues for Mass and the sacraments.  We are deeply indebted to the Board of Management and the Principal of Saint Brigid’s Mercy School for the generous manner in which they accommodated us for the celebration of the weekend Mass over the past ten months.

A collaborative project – priests and people together

We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Father Pat Farragher for the meticulous manner in which he monitored the proceedings at every step of the refurbishment and to his co-pilot Father Seán Flynn.  From the very beginning of the project the support from the Finance Committee and the Pastoral Council has been so encouraging.  It is appropriate to acknowledge the professionalism of Wejchert Architects and J.J. Rhatigan Contractors and the many sub-contractors who put their expertise at our service.  From the outset this refurbishment enjoyed powerful support, interest and encouragement from the many generous benefactors of the people of God that is the Church of Tuam.  Without your goodwill and extraordinary generosity we would not be here today celebrating the beauty and the magnificence of our Cathedral.  All of this is a powerful expression of your faith in God, your love for Jesus Christ and the pride that you take in this building that is the Church of God.  I hope you will understand if I make special mention of the extraordinary generosity of the late Joe O’Toole.

Remembering with gratitude

We recall with gratitude the people who conceived the idea of this Cathedral and built it in the early part of the nineteenth century, and who worshipped here over the past 185 years – the priests and Archbishops who served here, preached the Word of God here, celebrated the sacraments here, and built up God’s kingdom from here.  We remember the organists and choirs, the sacristans, ushers, cleaners, collectors and flower arrangers, the painters and other skilled tradespeople.

The Cathedral was consecrated on the 18 August 1836 by Archbishop John McHale.  The chalice used in today’s Mass was presented to him by Pope Gregory XVI.  The history of our Cathedral encapsulates the ageless Catholic story of struggle and success, of fear and hope, of suffering and joy.  History however cannot capture the faith of the men and women who made significant sacrifices to support this Cathedral, their trust in God, their love for one another in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I rejoice today with you, the people of the Cathedral parish, as we give thanks for our past, as we celebrate our present and as we express faith in our future.  Let no negative experience rob us of our love for this Cathedral, its history, and what it represents today.

The Cathedral: a sign of hope and a place of peace

Our Cathedral Church is a sign of hope in a busy world.  The very name of our Cathedral, The Cathedral of the Assumption, is a reminder of hope.  Mary’s Assumption into Heaven is a preview of the destiny which awaits us and enables us to cling to God in perplexity and adversity.  The Church reminds us that what Mary is we too shall be.  Mary is promise fulfilled, humanity completed and faithfulness rewarded.

Since the wheel of Saint Jarlath’s chariot broke we, the people of God, have been searching for God in places made holy by the prayers of our ancestors.  In our own time, so full of contradictions and confusion, we search for sense to our suffering and purpose to our pain.  We gather this morning, on the feast of the Assumption in the Cathedral of the Assumption to give thanks to God through Mary, and to rejoice as we dedicate the altar in this sacred space as a resting place on our pilgrim path.  We rejoice in the courage and awe-inspiring generosity of the men and women of today who are, in hope, entrusting this magnificent refurbished Cathedral to future generations.

Preserving the beauty while making way for the new

This restoration reproduces the original appearance and preserves the beauty of the past while making room for a newness of the present.  The Cathedral is a place of peace that encourages us to renew and nurture our hope.  It reflects the faith of our ancestors.  In this building the Lord offers us forgiveness and love, consolation and peace.  Around us we witness this immense achievement of human intelligence, this inspiring and creative work of art testifying to the indomitable courage of the people of the West.  It is a hugely impressive monument to the faith of our people, past and present.

A precious legacy

This Cathedral is a precious legacy to the next generation, but more precious still is your faith which has inspired this project and which will inspire a renewal and a deepening of faith.  From this sanctuary the Word of God will continue to be proclaimed reminding us of God’s care and concern for us and also challenging our sense of responsibility toward others.  It is significant, and I am proud to acknowledge this in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio, that the Archdiocese of Tuam has contributed in the last 18 years €10 million to TRÓCAIRE, not to mention the local contributions to Saint Vincent de Paul and other charities.

A new altar

This new altar, which will shortly be anointed, incensed and clothed, will each day be reverenced.  This altar symbolises Jesus Christ.  To this altar we will together bring our petitions, pledges, prayers and gratitude and from this altar you will be fed by Christ’s Body in the Eucharist.  From this altar you will go forth to your family, your study, your work, your social life, to build up God’s kingdom. At His altar we are refreshed, reinvigorated and renewed. 

The Cathedral: witnessing the pilgrimage of faith

This Cathedral reordered and made beautiful by your exceptional generosity is such a place to pause, to rest by the wayside on our pilgrim path to God.  Its doors will be open to all who will respond to Christ’s gentle invitation to come inside and rest awhile.  In this pilgrim setting it will welcome the tourist, the school bagged child, the hard-pressed parent, the returned exile, the sinner and the saint.  Here we will all experience the warmth, love and hospitality of God.  Here we will discover that what God did in the past He can do now, what God has done in the Holy Land, He can do here in Tuam.



  • Archbishop Michael Neary is Archbishop of Tuam. This homily was delivered in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Tuam, on Sunday 15 August 2021.

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