HOMILY DELIVERED BY MOST REV. MICHAEL NEARY, ARCHBISHOP OF TUAM ON THE OCCASION OF THE GOLDEN JUBILEE OF MICHEÁL McGRÉIL, S.J.
Fíorchaoin fáilte romhaibh anseo anocht chuig an óiche speisialta seo agus muid ag ceiliúradh in éineacht leis an Ath. Michéal. A special welcome to Michéal’s family, wide circle of friends and neighbours. Welcome to Michéal’s brother Jesuits, confreres in the Society of Jesus, to the Religious.
Last, but not least welcome to the man of the occasion himself An tAth. Michéal. Is breá linn a bheith leat agus muid ag marcáil na hócáide suntasaí seo i do shaol.
I welcome you all as we come to celebrate our Jesuit friend, Fr. Micheál McGréil. Our celebration has a three-fold dimension, forty years in association with Mameán, fifty years as a priest and sixty years as a Jesuit and we might say maybe all his life as a sociologist, campaigner and activist. Born in 1931 and educated by the Christian Brothers in Westport. He still carries with him in a very manly and courageous way his army training from 1950-1959 as a Cadet and Officer. Having studied in Louvain, in Kent University, Milltown Park and UCD. I first got to know him when he lectured in sociology in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
Micheál wore his learning very lightly and it never became a hindrance in his relationship with the people of the West. Micheál was primarily a priest and while he initiated and espoused various causes he always did so as a priest whether it was prison reform, the Irish language or the Western Rail Corridor. Although he retired from his position as lecturer the word retirement was not in vocabulary. There was always a ruthless honesty about Micheál. When Pope Francis was elected Pope, Micheál acknowledged that Pope Francis had studied in Milltown Park while Micheál was there but he said that he couldn’t remember him. It has been established since however that the Pope remembers Micheál!!
Running through his long list of publications there is a common thread which is all about liberation, improvement and the dignity of the human person whether he was writing about prejudice, about community, tolerance, railway lines, memoirs, the travelling people, the pioneers. Here in the Archdiocese we are indebted to Micheál for the way in which he enabled us to articulate our priorities for Church as rapid changes were engulfing Irish society. With his sociological expertise he enabled us to articulate our response to those changes in terms of Quo-Vadimus in 1998. Micheál had the facility for relating to and influencing areas from which the Church has been largely absent. One of those areas was the Trade Unions and as shop steward when he was on the teaching staff in Maynooth he always brought integrity, justice and balance to the causes which he espoused. To his eternal credit I have to say that he was always one who focused on the issue. He never allowed personalities to distract from the central issue. That is something which all those who have come to know and respect him have admired. Even when people who were opposed to him and became rather hostile and personal Fr. Micheál never stooped to that level. Recently I reminded him that he did so much to influence atheists and was always seen as a close friend of the lapsed atheist!
In Maynooth he always had a great rapport with our students from the Archdiocese of Tuam. He was very encouraging and challenged them in their studies. He convened a meeting and a meal for them in his family home in Lochloon each year, the menu was always bacon and cabbage! He has been so helpful in his generous availability to do supply in Westport and the surrounding area and particularly in Aughagower. When Fr. Jackie Conroy was ill and in the aftermath of his death Fr. Micheál carried the parish.
He has restored the pilgrimage to Mameán with the result that the Sunday after Reek Sunday will always be the Mameán pilgrimage. The work Michéal has done in reviving the traditional Patrician pilgrimage in Máméan has been a huge and important part of Micheal’s multi-faceted life. Is cúis áthais go dtagann na sluaite ansin ’chuile bhliain ar lá ‘le Pádraig, Aoine an Chéasta agus an chéad Domhnach de Mhí Lúnasa. Go maire an Oilithreacht thabhachtach seo slán go ceann i bhfad amach anseo sa todhchaí.
Not many people know that Fr. Micheál played what you might call “a blinder” in Croke Park in 1999 when he addressed 25,000 people at the Pioneer Mass and all as Gaeilge. He was reminiscent of what we used to hear about great political leaders in our history addressing huge rallies and he got a thunderous applause on the occasion. He said to me afterwards “don’t tell me that the people don’t understand Irish, I didn’t speak a word of English in that address and you saw the response”.
Céard a d’fhéadfaí a rá faoi Mhichéal i mbeagán focail:
Saighdiúir, scoláire, socheolaí.
Duine uasal, úríseal, críonna.
Oide, ollamh agus Íosánach!
Mar atá i gcaint na sean daoine – Sagart ar fad! Is cinnte gur sagart ar fad é Michéal.
One could go on and on but today is a day of thanksgiving, thanksgiving to God for the priesthood and thanksgiving to God in a special way for Micheál McGreil for the way in which he has so courageously, faithfully and energetically lived his priestly ministry. We thank God for the hope, the courage and the joy that he has brought to so many people. We pray God’s blessing and the protection of Our Lady on him as he continues to be an ardent ambassador for Jesus Christ.
Along with your family, your fellow members of the Society of Jesus, the Priests and People of the Archdiocese of Tuam I heartily congratulate you on this great occasion. Tá árd-mheas againn ort i nDeoise Thuama. Táimid buíoch díot as ucht an deá-shampla agus obair a rinne tú ar fud na tíre agus go háirithe i dTuaim. Go gcuire Dia a bheannacht ort. Faoi bhrat na Maighdine go raibh tú. Go maire tú an chéad agus go bhfága Dia an tsláinte agat.