HOMILY FOR THE FUNERAL MASS OF
MONSIGNOR MICHAEL WALSH, April 18th, 2010.
The readings today present a miniature of the Church, and in doing so they alert us to weakness and trials within the Church. In the face of death, Peter and his fellow apostles insist that they will continue to preach Jesus crucified and risen.
On the 23rd June 1946, Michael Walsh, a native son of the parish was one of three priests ordained in St. Patrick’s College Maynooth for service in the Archdiocese of Tuam. On that day he could not have known in detail the life to which God had called him as a priest. He was convinced however that it was God who was calling and he was prepared to say a very generous yes to the implications of that call, a call that would become clearer as it became challenging and demanded greater courage. His first appointment was to Graduate study in Maynooth College for one year, then in 1947 he went to Roundstone in Connemara for three years. Early in 1950 he went on loan to Melbourne in Australia where he ministered for the next two years. On return in 1951 he joined the staff of St. Jarlath’s College and in 1958 he became Diocesan Secretary with Archbishop Joseph Walsh, a position which he held until 1971 when he was appointed President of St. Jarlath’s College. My first contact with him was when he taught me Christian Doctrine in my Leaving Certificate year in St. Jarlath’s. I still recall the clear, concise mind that communicated Christian truth and gospel values. It was only some years later that I discovered, quite by accident, that Fr. Michael Walsh was one of the brilliant minds of the Archdiocese.
He had secured first place in Ireland what was then the Intermediate Certificate, but in keeping with the modesty of the man one would never hear that from himself.
In 1971 he became President of St. Jarlath’s College. He continued to remain young at heart, had a wonderful insight into the Psychology of the young and had a passionate interest in Gaelic games and athletics. A firm believer in the fact that education must take account of all the facets of the human person, spiritual, intellectual, social and recreational. For the next six years he provided inspirational leadership for staff and students of the college.
In 1977 he was appointed Parish Priest of Dunmore and for the next nineteen years ministered to the people of the parish, providing the leadership which resulted in a new community school in the area. He wore his ecclesiastical honours very lightly and never allowed them to become a barrier in his pastoral outreach to the people he served.
In the Archdiocese resigned their parishes on reaching 75 and while some opt to retire completely, others are willing to move and minister in a new area. Monsignor Michael moved as Assistant priest to the Cortoon/Lavally area. He considerable experienced gained over the years equipped him to give wise counsel to people who came looking for guidance and leadership. If a priest is not in close contact with God in prayer then it is unlikely that he will be sensitive to and supportive of the people of God. Mgr. Michael communicated a very deep faith in Jesus Christ and a great love for priesthood. He obviously enjoyed his ministry. In an age when promises are broken, when marriage, religious life and priesthood come under such pressure, Mgr. Michael was consistent, faithful and providing sterling service to the Lord and God’s people.
In all of this he derived great support from his family and from the people he served.
On a personal note, I would want to record that I have been greatly enriched by knowing Mgr. Michael Walsh and can without hesitation that he was a man of outstanding intelligence, courtesy, dignity, loyalty, discretion and genuine prayerfulness.
As a native of Aghamore it is perhaps little wonder that he would have such an interest in Knock Shrine, an interest in devotion which he maintained and developed all through his priesthood. His book, The Apparition at Knock, is a very comprehensive account of the story of the Marian Shrine. The third edition of his book was launched just two years ago. The clarity and eloquence which we have associated with the man is especially evident in his book.
Mgr. Michael enjoyed the company of priests and frequently chuckled when colleagues would suggest that he had the makings of a best seller were he to write a book on the interesting insight and antidotes he had to offer on some recent prelates.
In the longer version of the Gospel for today the question of Jesus is openly directed to each one of us: “Do you love me?” Each one of us answers that question in the particular vocation in which we live, whether it be married life, single life, religious life or priesthood. Mgr. Michael has answered that question for ninety years and as a priest he has enabled others to answer it for the past sixty-four years. We thank God for his priestly ministry and for the way in which God through the ministry of his priests makes himself available to us in the Eucharist each day. Today we entrust Mgr. Michael to the God who sent him on mission sixty four years ago. We pray and thank God for the lives which he influenced, the inspiration which he provided and the witness which he has given so generously and so effectively as he presented and promoted priesthood over all those years – for his faith, his example, his spirituality and his generous service. Joining with the Parish Priest, Fr. John Walsh, with Canon James Kelly, my brother priests, with the people and the religious in the various places in which he served and with the people of his native Aghamore, I extend our sincere sympathy and the support of our prayers to his nieces and nephews.
Ar Dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.