HOMILY FOR THE FUNERAL MASS OF FATHER ENDA LYONS SUNDAY 5TH MAY, 2019.
As the Church was celebrating the Feast of Saint Athanasius, Fr. Enda Lyons was called home by the Lord. As a Theologian Enda would have been very conscious of the role which Athanasius played in the early Church. At the time various heresies were threatening the essentials of the Christian faith. One in particular regarded Jesus Christ as a man and not God. That idea was so prevalent that St. Jerome claimed that the early Church was sleep-walking into heresy. It was Athanasius in particular who contributed to restoring a balance and emphasises the divinity of Jesus. Because of the stance he had taken Athanasius was often spoken of as being “contra-mundum” – against the world of popular belief. In some ways I believe that Fr. Enda had a great regard for Athanasius. Enda himself enjoyed an independence and was always conscious of the need to maintain balance whenever he was presenting the mysteries of our faith. Perhaps there was something appropriate about Enda going to meet the Lord on the Feast of Athanasius.
When Jesus appeared to his disciples on Easter Sunday evening He showed them his hands and his side. St. John’s Gospel seems to focus more on the wounds of Jesus. At times we may be tempted to think of the Resurrection as relegating the wounds of Jesus to the past. But the focus on the wounds in the resurrected Christ underlines the fact that the risen Lord is in touch with our wounded humanity.
As we lay Fr. Enda Lyons to rest we are very conscious of the wounds which he carried and the way in which he ministered to wounded people. Prior to the development of cardiac surgery Enda had a number of bypasses which left him quite weak and vulnerable. Given the restrictions imposed by his health Enda exercised his priestly ministry in a very specific and hugely significant manner.
After his Ordination in 1958 Enda studied in the Dunboyne Institute in Maynooth where he was awarded a Doctorate in Theology. In 1961 he moved to Corrandulla Monastery and from there to St. Jarlath’s College where he taught Latin for the next seven years. During that time Enda adopted a very pastoral, caring approach to students and endeavoured to get them interested in different areas in literature and music. He believed very strongly in the fact that all subjects must have a practical, day-to-day influence on life. At that time Latin was beginning to recede in the importance of languages and was yielding to French and some of the more modern languages. In his teaching of Latin Enda endeavoured to get the students recognising the way in which Latin is one of the foundational languages. At one stage he endeavoured to get his students speaking Latin during class. I am sure that Cicero would probably have eaten his heart out to hear it.
Enda always had a great interest in Theology and from St. Jarlath’s he moved to Carlow College in 1968 where he taught in the Seminary. His real interest however was in taking theology out of the seminary setting and the following year he was appointed to the Catechetical Institute in Mount Oliver in Dundalk where he taught those who were training as Catechists. It was a very challenging time as the Church endeavoured to recognise and implement the directions of the Second Vatican Council. The area of Catechetics was focused upon for great attention at the time and Enda was very happy for the next ten years teaching religious, lay people and priests and preparing them to take responsibility in the world of Catechesis. This was something which Enda enjoyed as it gave his theology a very pastoral and practical orientation. So many people have commented on the way in which he encouraged and supported those you were training as Catechists to equip them for their responsibilities. After ten years in Mount Oliver Institute Enda took up his pastoral ministry in Milltown. At that time his health began to deteriorate.
In 1978 Enda went to Rome for a sabbatical but his health deteriorated at that time. In 1979 he took up ministry in Williamstown and two years later in Clonfad. During this time Enda was in great demand throughout the Archdiocese and beyond as he provided the theological background for various ministries and pastoral councils. One area which he enjoyed and to which he made a hugely important contribution was ministering to people who had fallen away from Church and were now struggling with questions of faith in a very secular age. In all of this Enda demonstrated great sensitivity, understanding, encouragement and support. He journeyed with people in a most patient manner. He was convinced that theology must be pastoral and that true pastoral work requires a theological underpinning. As a diocese we were very fortunate to have him live and work among us as he ministered to priests, to religious and the people of God.
He carried his cross of ill-health very courageously. Indeed, this provided an authenticity to what he had to say and the way he said it. Enda was very fortunate to be surrounded in his latter days by close friends who were very supportive, caring and concerned.
Joining with the Parish Priest, Canon Stephen Farragher, and my brother priests, with the religious and the people of Ballyhaunis and all those who have benefited from Enda’s ministry. I offer my sincere sympathy and the promise of my prayers to Enda’s sister-in-law, his nephew, his niece, cousins and particularly to Fr. Eamonn, the chief-celebrant and to the extended family and to all who mourn his loss.