Today, at 2.00pm, the Funeral Mass of the late Leona Harper will take place in Saint Mary’s Church, Parish of Aughnish, Ramelton, Co Donegal, in the Diocese of Raphoe. Parish Priest Father Michael Carney will be the chief celebrant for this Mass and will preach the homily. A public address system (outside loudspeakers) will be in operation to amplify the Mass which will also be livestreamed on St. Mary’s Church, Ramelton, Co. Donegal – Parochial House, Ramelton, Letterkenny,, Ireland (churchservices.tv)
Welcome by Father Michael Carney
Good afternoon and welcome. We are communities and a county reeling from last Friday’s awful tragedy in Creeslough. The waves of shock and sadness have reached every corner of this county. They have brought us together to pray for those gone from us and to stand together in support of those bereft. This afternoon we gather in prayer to honour one of the youngest victims of this tragedy – Leona Harper. Leona was baptised here ion Saint Mary’s, made her First Communion here and was confirmed by Bishop Alan just three years ago – again in this church.
In the way we think of and appreciate life, Leona’s time on this earth was short – too short. But she lived life to the full, she has made her unique contribution, left her imprint and contributed to the lives of those she loved, lived and laughed with.
We honour Leona with the rites of a Christian burial. We pray, as we do for all who have died in the Lord, that she may have the reward of eternal life with God our Father in heaven. Leona’s life journey has reached its destination – we pray – in the homeland prepared for her by God in heaven. We pray through this Mass for Leona and for her eternal happiness. And we remember the other none victims of Fridays tragedy and commend them to the mercy and compassion of God.
I want to welcome Leona’s family and loved ones to this Funeral Mass. A particular warm welcome on behalf of the parish and community to her parents Donna and Hugh, her brothers Anthony and Jamie. I welcome Leona’s grandmother Mary and her extended family.
I want to especially welcome her many friends – her friends from school in Scoil Mhuire and Mulroy College, her rugby team mates and all those who knew Leona through her hobbies and pursuits. I welcome her teachers and mentors. The suddenness of Leona’s going has left you her family and all who knew and loved Leona shell shocked and grief stricken. We offer you the support of our prayers, the solidarity of our presence and the sincerity of our sympathy.
Provided by Sinead Black and Jemma Heaney
Read by Leah Clarke
Read by Kathleen McBarron
Gospel proclaimed by Father Michael Carney
The Father Revealed in the Son – Matthew: 11: 25-30
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Homily preached by Father Michael Carney
Those of us who have climbed Muckish Mount, Creeslough’s great brooding backdrop, will know to heed the weather.
It can change quickly so much so that you can be covered by cloud and surrounded by impenetrable fog even on a clear blue skied day.
Clouds and fog come to mind as I think of the events of last Friday.
The cloud of this awful tragedy which has robbed us of so much weighs heavy on our county, communities and homes.
We are lost in a fog of grief and sadness so painful it hurts. The scale of the tragedy is so unimaginable it is almost unreal. But the names, faces, stories and yarns make it so very real.
There is nothing heavier than grief. Sadness is like a big unwieldy weight we’re saddled with but can’t quite manage to carry comfortably. It presses down on us, presses in on us, unbalancing us and tripping us up. It is upsetting and unsettling and leaves us out of sorts, cast adrift and lonely. We look for reassurance about those who are gone and where they are gone.
We wonder about ourselves and when we will ever be at peace again? We are confounded and confused by the recurring mystery of suffering. We wonder why God, why me, why now?
Put simply, we have a gaping wound, we are in pain and the nice neat, ordered and happy ways of our lives have been kicked over and shattered like glass on a paved floor. And into this reality comes a gentle almost imperceptible sound. Jesus words whisper another reality to us. It’s a reality based on an invitation. Jesus shared our human condition.
He knew suffering and so is full of compassion for us in our distress. He speaks to us in our lingo: ‘You’re down, you’re done, you’re suffering – I know you are up against it.’ He gently says to each of us: ‘I am here, I understand and I want to give you rest.’
As we grapple with the random, unimaginable events of these last days, He asks us to reach out, to stretch out our hand and TRUST in Him. That is not easy particularly when we are not ourselves or when our emotions are strained and stretched, and questions keep popping up without many being answered. Jesus stretched on the Cross of Calvary, reached out to His Father and found the way to glory.
So, He gently coaxes us, leads us a step at a time and comforts us with his presence. And that’s happening as we share this moment. It is happening through our prayers, our love, our hugs and care, our companionship, the little words of understanding and sympathy, the many expression of generosity and assistance. Jesus works through us, in us and with us. Because our hands are His hands, our care is His care and our love is his love. We are part of a ministry of presence – making the good Lord present in so many rich and different ways.
As we look for rest, peace and a way forward I think He would want to assure us – reassure us – that Leona is safe; her destiny with God assured and she will be gifted with the resurrected life we pray for her today.
Leona was a little lady with a big heart who lived a full life. As with most fourteen-year-olds, there were four important anchors in her life: family, friends, hobbies and school. They were at once separate and all interconnected. Hugh and Donna talk of their daughter as their little miracle – and therein lies a story. When Anthony was born, Donna was told that there was no prospect of her conceiving another child. But seven years later something unexpected happened: Leona arrived – hence the little miracle. You, her Mum and Dad, talk of your daughter as a gem. It is often a line and a term we use about someone we love.
But given how unexpected and welcome Leona was to you in your life, your little daughter was indeed a precious gem. Gems shine, gems sparkle and gems attract us. Leona shone brightly and beautifully throughout her short life, sparkled with energy and fun and attracted so many friends to her circle. Donna and Hugh, you talk of Leona as quiet, no trouble and always helpful. Like any teenager her relationship with you was changing and moving to a different level. There was the hint of a little more assertiveness in her. While secrets were shared with mum; she rationed replies to her Dad’s questions with one liner, one word replies.
Leona’s brothers were special to her: Anthony her protective big brother was always there. She knocked great craic out of Jamie both at home and in school. There was a sense of both Leona and Jamie being a unit in many people’s minds.
Leona’s interests and pursuits were many, varied and indeed surprising. She was into her music and dance and was developing an eye for hair and fashion. But there was so much more. Leona loved the outdoors. She fished, she wondered to her Dad recently when they would go hunting again. She loved the peace and serenity of Gartan lake. A love of animals developed into an appreciation for farming and agriculture – and a passion for tractors! She was beginning to figure in her rugby club as a gifted player. And like many girls the exploits and success of Kelly Harrington and Katie Taylor had sparked an interest in boxing. And Liverpool was her team.
Much of these interests spilled into her school life and were shared with you her many friends who are here or listening today. Leona’s principal and teachers here in her primary school, Scoil Mhuire, remember with fondness a lovely little girl, pleasant, quiet and self-effacing.
Two years ago Leona began in Mulroy College in Milford. Secondary school is often where we flex our muscles, test boundaries and spread our wings. Leona, like a butterfly, was emerging from the cocoon of girlhood and developing into a young lady of promise. Her principal and teachers in Mulroy College talk of a happy girl who loved being in school, who radiated joy, love and kindness and appreciated everything her school gave her.
Leona’s school stoked and stirred her ambition and she took all the opportunities open to her. Her excellent art work was one of many aspects of school work mentioned and commended. She carried that gentleness and kindness seen in primary school into secondary school.
However, Leona was no shrinking violet. She was feisty and with a lovely level of independence. She could speak her mind and speak for others in that gentle but insistent way that got the attention of the grown ups. She stood up for those who could not stand up for themselves. She had maturity beyond her years and a deeply caring way.
Leona was a hard worker and diligent in everything she did. She pushed herself to succeed. She was into her Junior Cert Year and had knuckled down to its demands. She was looking at the horizon of career options. Her principal remarked that she was considering teaching. In her opinion she had the necessary qualities of drive, care and interest in people to succeed at that.
When I think of schools I know them to be about much more than the rigours of the classroom. They are also about friends and craic and mischief. Leona had loads of the above! She made great friends among so many of you who are here with us today. We feel your pain and loss. I know that you will miss the mischievous huddle and the giggles and excited enjoyment of your friendship. Jamie was part of your circle – you shared so many friends. Look after him and look after each other and honour the care and friendship you had for Leona and she had for you.
When we celebrate a Funeral we are usually praying for and remembering someone who has lived a long life – the biblical four score years and more. What can we say about someone of fourteen years? We sometimes make the mistake of reckoning a life – and all those aspects which complete it – with long years and old age. But it is remarkable what anyone can pack into their lives. Leona’s years were short and brief – but my goodness was it packed to brimming. Leona brightened her world with a gentle but feisty character, a unique personality, a distinctive array of talents and interests which for you, who loved her, were both memorable and life giving. It would be a casual oversight of a young person’s life to say they left us before they had achieved anything substantial. Life should not be measured by our successes or otherwise but by the efforts they made:
– to do good;
– to bring peace and joy;
– to show love and affection;
– to forgive and forge new ties.
Leona may have lived a little life but she lived a very full life. Its brevity will make her contribution to her family, to her friends and her schools all the more radiant and bright. She brought her own unique qualities to the lives of the those she loved, lived and laughed with. She has left a lasting impression of vitality, optimism and endeavour.
Leona has gone home to God we pray. The moment of death paves the way to the new life God promises us in our Baptism. That promise is one of resurrected and eternal life. We pray that Jesus who loved Leona in life will take her gently to Himself. May Leona know the peace and tranquility of everlasting life in heaven. We pray for Leona’s family – for your consolation and peace as you face into a new reality that is very different from the reality you shared with Leona. We will help you with the burden through our prayers, support and the simple ministry of presence.
And we return at the last to prayer…we pray for Leona’s everlasting happiness and thank God for her time among us. May Leona rest quietly and easily in His presence, as we pray: Eternal rest grant to her O Lord and may perpetual light shine on her….
Prayer of the Faithful
Read by Fiona Temple, Principal of Mulroy College, Milford and students Sarah Delap, Katie Tease
Mary Maloney, Connor Dunne, Conor Friel and Dylan Logue
Expressions of gratitude
- Emergency Services – local and from Northern Ireland.
- The Digger Driver.
- President Michael D Higgins and our national and local politicians.
- Friends and neighbours.