March 10th - Father Moriarty's Presentation
Late, as usual, Keith and I crept into the church of Our Lady of the Assumption at Stainforth last Saturday, March 9th, for the 6pm Mass. Luckily, in a crowded church, there were two seats free on the back row. The Mass was said by Fr. John with Fr. Pannell assisting. In his address Fr. John began by explaining his idea of "church". Not the pyramid model of the Pope at the top, then bishops, priests and the faithful laity in descending order, but rather a circle of equals, with the ordained priest at some point on that circle, although not in himself the focal point. For our two parishes this is clearly a good model to follow - each person doing their bit as time and talents allow, but with no one individual, or group of individuals, higher in status than any one else. It illustrates the words of Jesus, when he said: I come to serve, not to be served.
The second point of the homily was that we all develop at different speeds and in different ways, so it is not sensible to compare two individuals, let alone two parishes. As a former teacher himself, he knows, as I do, that one of the worst things to say to any child is, "you're not as good/clever/pretty/intelligent as your brother/sister." It is very damaging to the sense of self worth which we need to foster in every human being. A lovely personal insight into Fr. John's character was a remark made to his mother by one of his old teachers - namely that he was a dreamer. Fr. John somewhat ruefully admitted that he was in no way an administrator.
At the end of Mass a presentation of cheques was made by Stainforth and Moorends parishioners, as a token of gratitude and appreciation for his service to us. He was clearly moved by the generosity - and amused by the other gifts, in bottle form. A quip from Fr.Pannell that he had never seen a bottle of whisky so close to the altar before, and this must be described as "holy" spirit, made the rest of us laugh too. A personal letter from the Bishop was read out by Fr.Pannell, expressing the genuine thanks and appreciation of the diocese for his time with us and for his sterling qualities of learning and sensitivity as a priest. The Bishop praised his wisdom, gentleness and humility. Sentiments fully endorsed by those present.
A magnificent spread was set out at the back of the church, where every person had the chance to speak to Fr.John personally and enjoy the "craic". The whole evening was one of happy, relaxed informality which gave the visitors from Moorends a chance to chat with many old friends in Stainforth. Let's hope this will be the first of many such joint meetings to share worship and friendship, to strengthen the existing links between our two parishes.
Finally - I must say that Fr.John looked well, although considerably frailer. He has lost weight but is free from pain. At almost seventy five it is a tribute to his sense of vocation that he still feels he has a job to do, and is still giving of himself in the service of Christ. The good wishes and prayers of both our parishes go with him in his new role in London.
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