As we come to Christmas it is a good time to look back and reflect on what was a very special year in our parish. We celebrated the centenary of our parish church St. Cronan’s. We had some lovely events to mark the occasion – the Palm Sunday walk from the Blessed Well, the Centenary Mass with Archbishop Neary on May 27th, the family day on the grounds of the Secondary School, the talk on the windows and the talk on the influence on early Irish Christianity. They were all significant events and I thank all who participated in them.
In Belcarra we had the celebration in St. Anne’s to mark the centenary of the Society of St. Columban, co-founded by our native son Fr. John Blowick. Again it was a wonderful occasion when we welcomed Columban Fathers that have served in many different countries. Truly inspirational men.
The year saw Balla win the Pride of Place National Award. Our footballers won the County Junior title and the wonderful new playground opened in Belcarra. These are just some of the highlights of the year which demonstrate that our parish community is alive and well.
As in other years there were many happy family events to celebrate, births, baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, marriages, significant anniversaries and we have a centenarian in the parish. Many happy events. Sadly there were the sad happenings also, illness and death visited many families throughout the year. I congratulate those who have had the happy events and offer sympathy and prayerful support to those who have had to endure bereavement, sickness or any other personal difficulty.
As the Christmas season comes upon us, I would like to thank all who are involved in any parish ministry or voluntary organisation within the community. It is your generosity that enables our parish and community to be as strong and active as they are. A parish or a community is nothing without its people. I thank you all for your help and support to me over the year and I pray the blessings of the Christ child on you and yours this Christmas. I extend Christmas greetings to all from Balla, Belcarra, Clogher and Manulla and to all our emigrants at this time. May the Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph guide and support you all now and in the years ahead.
As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Christmas I would like to express my thanks to all in the parish for your support and kindness throughout the year. A particular word of thanks to all who are involved in parish committees and liturgical ministry. Thanks to all who care for St. Cronan’s and St. Anne’s and their grounds. It is only because of your involvement that our parish can function. Long gone are the days when the priest can do it on his own.
I congratulate all who had joyful celebrations during the year. To those who have had a bereavement and to all who are sick or facing any particular challenge in life.
I assure you of a special place in our Christmas Masses. I also wish to remember our emigrants. Wherever you are this Christmas I am sure that your thoughts are with us here in Balla, Belcarra, Clogher and Manulla. I assure you that as we celebrate this special season you are remembered at ceremonies at both St. Cronan’s and St. Anne’s. I extend our good wishes to you in whatever part of the world you now reside.
Next year will be a very significant year in our parish. We will mark the centenary of St. Cronan’s on Sunday May 27th when Archbishop Neary will join us. Other events will also take place during the year. At the moment the church is undergoing renovations. While work was taking place on the main altar window it was noticed that water was engressing the gable wall. This would eventually undermine the building. We are currently working on that gable. The work consists of raking out every joint and repointing it. The coping stones on top have also had to be removed and new leading put in. It is very slow and costly work.
I take this opportunity to thank all those who are contributing a little extra in their Weekly Envelope and also those who have made specific donations. It is this generosity that is allowing the work to take place. All donations no matter how big or small are welcome. When that phase of the work is done we will have to put a plan in place for the remainder of the building.
In October we will celebrate the centenary of The Columban Fathers. On October 28th a celebration marking this great event will take place in St. Anne’s recognising the fact that one of the co-founders was Fr. John Blowick. This should be a very special celebration. We can take great pride in what Fr. John did in the true missionary spirit of the Gospel. So please God we have much to look forward to in 2018.
In the meantime, I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a happy and peaceful Christmas. May the Lord pour down abundant blessings on you all.
Many people do not like having to wait. At times we can grow impatient if we have to wait in a queue of traffic or in a shop or if someone that we have an appointment with is late or whatever. We like things to happen now.
Advent is a time of waiting and preparation. We are waiting and preparing to celebrate the great and wonderful Feast of Christmas. While all around us the Christmas trees and decorations are appearing and the Christmas music is ringing in our ears we are invited to focus on the true meaning of the Feast. While we all have to live in and engage with the real world we should not allow the commercialism take over completely.
In the midst of the shopping, the cards, the gifts and the visits to Santa let us pause and reflect on the presence of Christ in our lives. If Christ had not been born we would not have Christmas. We need to ensure that we do not have Christmas without Christ.
As we journey through Advent let us commit to doing something each day that reminds us of Christ and his unfailing love.
Perhaps we might take a little time out from the hustle and bustle and ask ourselves
What part will Christ play in our preparation for Christmas?
Loving God, Bless our families and our homes this Advent season.
Strengthen our faith and hope in your unfailing love for us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.