The Diocese of Down and Connor warmly congratulates Father John O’Laverty who was ordained to the Priesthood by Bishop Noel Treanor on Sunday 31 July, in Saint Patrick’s Church, Legamaddy (Parish of Bright, Killough). Please find below a press release about the Ordination which includes a copy of the homily delivered by Father Martin Graham. Photos of the Ordination are also available upon request from Father Brian Watters ([email protected])
Bishop Noel Treanor ordains of Father John O’Laverty to the priesthood
The Diocese of Down and Connor warmly congratulates Father John O’Laverty who was ordained to the Priesthood by Bishop Noel Treanor on Sunday 31 July, in Saint Patrick’s Church, Legamaddy.
Father John (30), a native of the parish of Bright, following his early studies in Saint Nicholas’ Primary School, Ardglass and Saint Patrick’s Grammar School, Downpatrick, completed a degree in accountancy at Queen’s University Belfast in 2013. In 2015, John entered Saint Malachy’s Seminary, Belfast where he commenced his formation and preparation for the priesthood, studying scholastic philosophy. In 2017, John was sent to the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, to continue his priestly formation, where he completed a degree in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University (2020) before continuing his training at the Venerable English College, Rome with post-graduate studies in the field of Canon Law. Father John O’Laverty will return to Rome this September to complete his Licentiate studies in Canon Law. During the course of his priestly formation, John has also assisted in various parishes across the Diocese of Down and Connor.
At his Ordination ceremony yesterday, addressing Father John O’Laverty, his parents Elizabeth and Martin, his sisters Edel and Marie, wider family and friends, along with diocesan clergy and parishioners from the parish of Bright (Killough), Bishop Treanor said:
“For us all, members of the Body of Christ, coming from many different lands and backgrounds, it is a great joy to gather here in this church in Legamaddy in the parish of Bright, dedicated to Saint Patrick, for the Ordination of John O’Laverty.
Mindful of that long and living tradition of Christian faith and heritage, we all join joyfully in prayer for you and with you, John, on this the day of your Ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ for service in this Diocese of Down and Connor.
To you, Martin and Elizabeth, Fatherr John’s parents: on behalf of the faithful of our diocese – thank you for the gift of your son. May God reward you and your family.
On behalf of our local Church, I wish to acknowledge and thank all of you who accompanied, guided, inspired and encouraged John throughout the years of his training, study and formation. Your work is demanding as you guide seminarians in the ways of personal, spiritual, academic and pastoral growth. Please know that we are grateful to you. We pray God’s blessing on your vital service to the Church of tomorrow.
John, you have been called to priestly ministry as the Holy Spirit is stirring the Church with Pentecostal zephyrs, much like that first Pentecost experience in Jerusalem. Among the people of God many voices are to be heard. In this our time there is need for interpreters, for building of understanding and appreciation of the heart of faith in Christ. Rooted in the Word of God and in mystery of God incarnate in Jesus Christ may you ever listen to the heartbeat of all who meet you with Christlike empathy.
The famous Franciscan hagiographer, John Colgan (1592-1658), referred to this area, Lecale, as ‘triucha chead na soilse’, the territory of light. In this he drew on the account of Saint Patrick’s death, as related in the Tripartite Life of Saint Patrick:
“and for the space of twelve nights, whilst the divines were waking him with hymns, psalms and canticles, there was no light in Magh-Inis, but rather angelic light; some say there was light in Magh-Inis for the space of a year after Patrick’s death.”
With all of us, I pray that that ‘angelic light’ may inspire and guide you in your priestly ministry. May it pick you up, revive and refresh you in dark moments, when you feel you are but an earthenware jar and may it enlighten you to bring many to know God and ‘the deep things of God’. (1 Cor 2.10)’
Father John O’Laverty will celebrate his First Mass in Thanksgiving this evening in the Church of Saint Patrick’s, Legamaddy at 7pm.
Homily of Father Martin Graham at the Ordination of Father John O’Laverty
Last February, in the Cathedral, we had the Ordinations to the Permanent Diaconate and as the Ordination Mass was drawing to a close, Father Gerard Fox offered some words of thanks and he started by saying, “it takes a village to rear a child, it takes a diocese and more to rear a deacon”, or, on this occasion, it takes a diocese and more to rear a priest. And that really struck a chord with me because as John’s neighbour, albeit half a mile away, I have seen John grow and I have seen from where John has grown. It takes a diocese and more to rear a priest. It takes a diocese, it takes a parish, it takes a family.
For all Christians, the first transmission of the Christian Faith was in the Sacrament of Baptism. John was baptised on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord by Father Finbarr Glavin and when he heard John’s Christian names, John Charles, he remarked to Martin and Elizabeth that the bishop who ordained him was John Charles, John Charles McQuaid of Dublin. Baptism is that first transmission of faith and from that moment in Saint Joseph’s in Killough, faith was transmitted to John through his parents, his grandparents and other family members, by their actions as well as by their words. Saint Francis of Assisi said, “preach the Gospel and if necessary, use words”. Yes, Martin and Elizabeth certainly instructed John on the beliefs of the Catholic faith but I would imagine it was the living of that faith that made the greater impression on him. Sunday Mass and family prayers are not great, earth-shattering events; they are quiet, routine, even mundane but, day by day, week by week, they give us a sense of the presence of God in our lives, in our family home and situations, in the good times and in the bad.
Pope Saint John Paul spoke about the “Domestic Church”, the Church in the home, the Church within the family. As Christians we believe that our family also extends beyond the confines of the home, indeed beyond the confines of this world, to the souls in Purgatory, to the Saints in Heaven. Here, on Earth, our Catholic and Christian family is larger than our own individual family units and that’s why I appreciate the fact that here at Legamaddy, the graveyard is right outside.
Within this Church we gather for Mass this afternoon, as generations have gathered for Mass since Legamaddy opened in 1865; generations, many of whom who are buried close by. Generations who handed on the Faith to those following them right down to the present day. Generations who worshipped here or at this Church’s predecessors in Bright or Coniamstown chapels. Generations who met and worshipped in secret at the Mass Rock up the Twelve Acre Loney. Generations who put their complete trust in God to see them through dark times.
Before I was ordained, I used to walk up to the morning Mass which took about 20 minutes which, when Father Archie Kelly was here and Mass was less than 10 minutes long, meant that I was walking four times longer than it took for Mass. John’s grandad, Willie, would often be driving up to Mass and he would then stop and give me a lift when he met me on the road. I was humbled by Willie’s faith in God, not least when he was driving at a fair lick on those wee winding country roads, trusting in God that the couple of toots on the horn as we approached a blind hill or bad corner would be enough to scare cars coming in the opposite direction out of Willie’s way!
The parishioners of here and other parishes, both nearby and further afield like Elizabeth’s parents’ parish in Sixtowns in County Derry, these parishioners have transmitted the Faith by coming together in this and all the other Churches to pray and also by gathering after Mass in the graveyards to tend the family graves and spend a few minutes just chatting because it showed our faith was not narrow and insular; it was wider, is wider, and more diverse. It is families and people who live alone, landowners and people barely squeaking by; in short Catholicism can be described as “here comes everyone”.
An extension of that diversity found in the parish life would be in the various schools and colleges John attended, more recently the Diocesan Seminary in Belfast, and the Pontifical Irish College and Venerable English College in Rome and in Spain where he has been educated yes, but more properly where his vocation has been formed and moulded for priesthood in our diocese.
John Donne, the English poet, wrote those famous words, “no man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent”. God did not create us to be alone. As human beings we are social creatures; we need the structure of a society to function at our best. In the same way, as Christians, we are called on to remain part of the vine, to remain connected to Christ and to His Church. No priest is an island; he may be asked to live alone but he is not alone. He is part of the family of the parish in which he serves, and he is part of the fraternity, the brotherhood, of the clergy of his diocese. And that brotherhood is so evident here today with the presence of so many of my brothers as we prepare to warmly welcome our newest brother into our family.
No priest is an island. For John to be effective in his ministry he must remain connected to Christ. To quote the Gospel today, as a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. Cut off from me you can do nothing.
No priest is an island. As a priest, John will be connected to Christ and to His Church by fulfilling his vow of obedience to the Bishop, the father of the diocese, which John made at his Ordination to the Diaconate last year and which he will renew in our presence in a short while before the laying on of hands, the moment of Ordination.
That laying on of hands is another tangible sign of the transmission of the Faith, the transmission of the faith of the Apostles, the transmission of the commission of Christ to the Apostles to preach the Gospel, which they, in the same manner of the laying on of hands, used 2000 years ago. A manner that has been unbroken, a manner that spans the centuries; that goes beyond the formation of Down & Connor on 29th July 1439, beyond Saint Fergus being named the first Bishop of Down and Saint MacNissi, the first Bishop of Connor.
I found an interesting aside so forgive me! Although permanently joined in 1439 the two dioceses had been joined under Saint Malachy when he was created Bishop of Down and Bishop of Connor at the same time. Ten years later he became Archbishop of Armagh so he then held three dioceses. In 1137 he resigned as Archbishop of Armagh and Bishop of Connor but continued as Bishop of Down so the dioceses separated. His ninth successor was John de Ballyconyngham or John of Coniamstown who was ordained Bishop of Down in 1328. [All of this came from one of John’s forebears, Mgr James O’Laverty.]
Today, 694 years later, by the same laying on of hands, another John of Coniamstown will be ordained and the commission to care for the Lord’s flock, to preach the Gospel, to celebrate sacred mysteries faithfully and reverently, to consecrate himself to God, to unite himself more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, that commission, that mission, will be given to John.
Today is not the end of John’s journey; it is the beginning of the next chapter and the future for John is in God’s hands. Today John makes his own a line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”. In other words, by saying those words, he is following the example of Our Lady and surrendering what he wants to God’s will. From her birth, Mary sought to live a good life which is laudable but all the more praiseworthy is that she sought to live a holy life, a life centred around her faith in God. That faith was ultimately to lead her to the most challenging moment of her life up to that point and the answer that Our Lady gave then is the answer that John gives today, Fiat, let it be done, let God’s will for me be done as He has set out for me from this moment forth. Fiat, let it be done. May God’s will be done in John this day and every day so that every evening he may sing with Mary the words of the Magnificat, My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour… [because] the Almighty has done great things through me.
In the Gospel today, we hear of the vine, a plant with roots and branches. If you think of a tree, there is the trunk but at the base there are the countless roots; those roots are all those strands, family, parish, schools and colleges, diocese that come together today to bring a new priest to birth. By John’s cheerful and humble submission to God’s will, through his being the hands, the feet, and the voice of Christ in our world of today. In the name of Christ, the true vine, John will then create the flowering branches when he administers the Sacraments, visits the schools, preaches the Gospel in word and in deed. Like Father Glavin before him may he too welcome a future priest into the family of faith in the Sacrament of Baptism.
The last line of the Gospel says, “It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit.” May God richly bless John and his ministry so that John may bear much fruit, and by his life, give grace, blessing, consolation, hope, and peace to God’s people and ultimately give glory to the Father whom he has been called, by name, to serve and make known in the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
- Bishop Noel Treanor is Bishop of Down and Connor