Words of Bishop Donal McKeown and homily of Father Michael Canny at the Funeral Mass for Joseph Sebastian and Rueven Joe Simon

02 Sep 2022

The Funeral Mass for Joseph Sebastian RIP and Reuven Simon RIP takes place at 11.00am in Saint Mary’s Church, Ardmore Parish, Diocese of Derry.  The Mass, Eucharist, is being conducted according to the Rites of the Syro-Malabar Church, incorporating the music and Malayalam language of India.  The celebrant is Reverend Father Clement Padathiparambil, National Co-ordinator, Syro-Malabar Church, Ireland.  Please see below the words of Bishop Donal McKeown, and homily of Father Michael Canny, and these will be delivered during the Funeral Mass:

Words of Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry

We can see from the large numbers who came to the wake over the last days, that the events of the last few days have been traumatic for many people in this city and community.  These were two great students – intelligent, hardworking and very responsible.

But our first words of support have to go to the parents and family circle of the two boys who were snatched away from the embrace of the family by what happened at Enagh Lough on Monday.  We know from the Gospel that Jesus wept because of the death of his friend Lazarus.  On this sad day, He weeps with you because of the terrible loss that you have suffered.

But after the tears, Jesus says to the sisters of Lazarus, and to all of us, that He is the Resurrection and the Life.  Jesus tells us that, despite the tears, death does not have the final laugh.  To all of us He says that life is precious.   It is never a joke or without meaning.

Our belief in God is not an escape from reality.  It says that there is one whose love is stronger than the harsh reality which life may throw at us.  Our faith tells us that Jesus has carried our cross with us and that we will not be crushed.

I know that the Syro-Malabar Church community is very strong and close knit.  They will work together to support the bereaved and the traumatised through the next difficult weeks and months.

This is also a frightening time for many young people and their families.  This is a parent’s worst nightmare.  And it is very unsettling for the teenage friends and colleagues of these two young men who lie before us in their new school uniforms.  It is difficult to accept that life can be very hard.  We are blessed by one another and by a sense of faith when we have to deal with the many tragic losses in life.

These two boys were a huge gift to all of us in their life.  Today we hand them back, so reluctantly, to the strong hands of the God who made them in love.  We pray that they can be at peace with God and that we can eventually find some peace at their leaving us.  Amen

Homily of Father Michael Canny PP VG

The gospel passage that has been chosen today from Saint John is set in the context of Jesus about to leave this world.  He knows that His disciples, His closest friends are troubled.  They are sad, heart-broken, because Jesus their friend is about to die and He, in whom they had placed their trust and hope, will not walk this earth with them in physical form again.  Yet He tells them not to let their hearts be troubled but to place their trust in God because there are many rooms in His father’s house.

Like those disciples all those years ago you, the family of Joseph and Rueven, and indeed all of us in this church and beyond, are troubled and very sad at heart.  You, their parents, brothers, sisters, schools friends and extended family are troubled and sad because Joseph and Ruevan, who have been a central part of your lives, have been taken from you so suddenly and tragically.  We as a community are also deeply saddened because we have been robbed of two young boys who have left a deep impact on us.

We all feel bewildered by the sense of loss and the intensity of grief that we have experienced over these last few days.  In the eyes of this world you, their families and this community, have lost two young boys at a beautiful time in their lives when they were filled with hopes and dreams.

We can easily fall into despair but we are children of the Resurrection.  Joseph and Reuven are children of the Resurrection.  Death can rob us of so much, leave us broken and in tears, but it cannot rob us of love, cannot rob us of hope.  As parents and families you have loved these boys and they will forever be alive in your hearts and memories.  The pain you feel today is in proportion to the love you have for your boys. 

Joseph, lovingly called ‘Joppu’ by his family and friends was born on 11 May 2006 in Kerala and he was baptised at two months and, at the tender age of three months, he was brought to Ireland where his parents began a new life in this city.  He attended Good Shepherd Primary School and Saint Columb’s College and should be starting his AS level studies today.  He was a passionate footballer and a great fan of Barcelona.  He also loved cricket and was an active member of Newbuildings Cricket Club.

Ruevan was born in Altnagelvin hospital and like Joseph he attended Good Shepherd Primary School and Saint Columb’s College where today he should also be starting his AS level studies.  He too enjoyed football, cricket and listening to music as well as films and I am told eating medium-rare steaks.

Both boys flourished in their education, their gentle kind natures won them much affection among staff and pupils alike.  Our thoughts these days are also with the teachers, staff, their fellow pupils at Saint Columb’s College and the school community of Good Shepherd Primary School.

As today’s Gospel progresses we learn of the moment that Jesus’s body is taken down from the Cross and placed in the arms of his mother, this must have been a moment of excruciating sadness for her and the disciples.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, held death in her arms just as you the parents of Ruevan and Joseph have done.  Yet the question remains, what do we do with this pain, this loss and sadness?  What do we do when a huge part of our lives have been taken from us?

As the gospel story progresses we know that death and pain gave way to new life and Resurrection, and it is our faith and belief that Jesus is no longer dead but alive that gives us hope.

Rueven here in Derry, and Joseph back in Kerala, entered into the life of the Church through the waters of baptism that marked them out as followers of Jesus Christ.  In the course of their short lives they followed Christ faithfully by attending the Eucharist and receiving the sacraments and living out a life of love for parents, family, friends, classmates and teachers not to mention the many others who were touched by their kindness and courteous manner.

Joseph and Rueven’s families, you have made this city your home, a city and a people that are no strangers to pain and deep suffering.  You as families who are suffering so sorely can now draw from that deep well of empathy and love that your adoptive city is so ready and willing to offer.

Today, with sad and heavy hearts, in faith and hope we commend Ruevan and Joseph in prayer to the Lord.  Amen.    


Notes for Editors

At today’s Mass the concelebrants are:

Father Paul Morley, Co-ordinator, Syro Malabar Church, Northern Ireland

Father Joshy Kuttingal, Syro-Malabar Church, Great Britain

Father Joseph Karukayil, Saint Patrick’s Church, Dungiven

Father Jain Mannathukaran CC, Antrim

Father Roni Maliyekkal CC, Saint Eugene’s Cathedral

Father Joshy Parokkaran CC, Glendermott and Strathfoyle and Chaplain Syro-Malabar Church, Derry.

1st Reading      Wisdom 4: 7-15

2nd Reading     Thessalonians 4: 13-18


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