Funeral Homily for Fr. Michael Keane, RIP
St. Colman’s Church, Claremorris, August 30th, 2011
On Saturday last the day Fr. Michael passed away to his eternal reward in Claremount Nursing home it was the feast of St. Monica. It is said that on her death-bed that St. Monica had one wish while bidding farewell to her son the great Augustine. “All I ask” she said “is that you remember me at the altar of God”. Today we remember and pray for the happy repose of the soul of Fr. Michael at the altar of God here in St. Colman’s Church, his native parish of Kilcolman.
Call to Priesthood
On the 18th of June, 1950 Fr. Michael Keane along with four others from the Archdiocese of Tuam were ordained and granted the privilege to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at the altar of God on a daily basis, to minister, to be pastors to God’s people. Their mandate was – as the prophet Isaiah tells us in today’s first reading – to bring good tidings, to publish peace, to bring news of salvation, to proclaim the reign of God. Fr. Michael set about doing this with great diligence, passion and commitment for the past sixty one years of an eventful priesthood.
Early appointments saw Fr. Micheal serve for a short time in Cloonfad and Castlebar before serving in the north Connemara half-parishes of Tully Cross and Cashel. From the early 1960s and right through to the early seventies he ministered in the eastern part of the diocese in Kilkerrin before returning to his native Mayo to Carnacon until the mid-1970s. In 1976 after some considerable difference of opinion and public controversy he transferred to the Dublin Archdiocese. In 2005 he returned to his native Claremorris, residing in Mount Street and helping out as chaplain in Claremount Nursing Home along with being a great help to the local clergy, Canon Tommie Mannion and Fr. Peter Gannon in the parish here in Kilcolman.
Relationship with Church Authority
Being strong-willed and passionate about various issues – when it came to ecclesiastical authority and dealing with various Church leaders Fr. Michael had a colourful and sometimes fraught series of relationships with more than one Archbishop! In recent times with the relative mellowness of retirement he was able to look back and acknowledge these occasions with a sense of humour.
Illustration – Recent Story
A short time ago Fr. Michael, when visiting a colleague noticed a copy of The History of the Archbishops of Tuam and commented humoursly to his colleague that this book should carry a health warning! He enjoyed telling that story with great relish many times since along with many similar stories during a recent most cordial and pleasant visit for lunch to Archbishop’s House in Tuam a few short months ago.
Man of Principle and Champion of the Under-dog
Fr. Michael was a man of principle! Frequently he took strong stances on various issues, always willing to go out of his way to fight for what he perceived was a cause of injustice and most especially to be on the side of the under-dog. As many people have come to know despite his great endearing capacity for warmth and friendship – he could also be equally argumentative when he felt an issue needed to be ironed out or a point of principle made!
Courteous, Good-humoured, Appreciative and Generous.
In my dealings with Fr. Michael he was always most gentlemanly, good humoured and cordial. In his dealings with the Diocesan Office he was most appreciative and thankful and acknowledged in writing even the smallest courtesy. He was also extremely generous in donating to diocesan charity causes.
Founder of Knock Marriage Bureau
There is no doubt that Fr. Michael will be best known for founding the Knock Marriage Bureau in 1968 and it was this that led to he being christened “Ireland’s Cupid Priest”! The service offered at the Bureau was a novel and innovative idea coming at a time when emigration and social change had once again become a distinct reality in some remote and lonely places of rural areas in the west of Ireland. The show-band era was in full swing, dance halls were a big part of the social fabric of the country – but in some remote and isolated areas it was difficult for couples to meet and socialise and the marriage-rate was quite low. The Knock Marriage bureau was indeed a unique idea and as we know it has been the source of happiness for many people in the course of its 43 years of existence. The Knock Marriage Bureau that is still going strong today boasts of having introduced over 48,000 people and claims to have led to over 900 marriages. Many of them have kept in regular contact with Fr. Michael right down through the years.
Promotion of the Sacrament of Marriage
Central to his founding of the Marriage Office was his pastoral care of and interest in people. This along with his absolute commitment to life from womb to tomb and most of all the sanctity of Marriage, the covenant relationship between husband and wife.
Hope – Despite Our Mourning and Loss
This afternoon we mourn the passing of a unique character who certainly made his mark in life. He will be sadly missed by family, colleagues, friends, the many parishioners to whom he ministered, not least the countless acquaintances from the Knock Marriage bureau. The second reading today from St. Paul instils great hope in our hearts that is not an end, but merely a change. The hope of the Resurrection is much bigger on the horizon of life than the sadness and stark reality of ageing, sickness and death.
Belief in the Resurrection – Bringing Peace
In the post-resurrection scene of the Gospel of St. Luke today Jesus asks the disciples – why they are troubled, why do questions arise in their hearts? Belief in the Resurrection according to Jesus should bring us a deep sense of Peace. May this peace of the Risen Christ be with all who grieve for Fr. Michael Keane today, a man who brought the good tidings of the Gospel to many in his life and ministry of service in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ for 61 years. In this Eucharist, like St. Augustine – we approach the altar of the Lord with fondness of memory, in prayerfulness, in hope – that the peace of the Spirit of God would remain with all who mourn Fr. Michael’s loss.
Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis. Amen.