And Now, the End is Near…

It is hard to believe that this year is coming to the end. It seems that just a little bit ago, we arrived on an airplane, jet-lagged, so tired that we could not finish a sentence when we tried to talk during lunch. Now we are looking at the last week we will have together in Ireland. Despite the time seeming to go so fast, it seems like a lifetime ago that we were visiting Ireland with the Notre Dame Folk Choir, strangers to Wexford and Irish culture, the parishioners being a community we had yet to enter. What a difference a year makes: turning strangers to great friends, taking on other communities as our own, and calling this place home.

On Wednesday, we had our last radio show recording, where we were all interviewed about our time in Ireland how we have grown and been challenged by this year in ministry. I have to talk about the differences Irish and American culture, and what I will be taking away with me from Ireland as I go back to the America to continue working in ministry.

On Thursday, Molly and I helped with Scoil Mhuire’s closing of the school year Mass, which joined with the regular daily Mass crowd, and it was so great to see the church full. I sang the psalm, and I do not think I have ever felt as joyful as when I raised my “cantor arms” and an entire school, from junior infants to sixth-class, joined in to sing with full heart and full voice. What more, they were no longer strangers’ faces, children whom I served; many of them knew my name and I knew theirs. Later that evening, the Teach Bhride and guests went to see the sixth class’ production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat , which was superb. It still amazes me that a primary school can put on a full musical production using only the sixth class, and the fifth class as a chorus, and that it can be of such great quality. It was truly a testament not only to what good and talented students Scoil Mhuire and I’ve had the privilege of working with, but also a testament to their teachers who not only provide for their teaching in their school subjects, but also their formation.

On Friday, one of the members of the Folk Group had the entire choir over to her house for dinner and one last singsong before we Americans leave the Emerald Isle. As always, the food and company were excellent, and the fellowship even more so. One of my favourite songs that we sang that night is called Beautiful Affair , led by the director of the choir and by our hostess for the night. The reason it is my favourite song is not how it sounds or the lyrics, but instead for what happens when we sing it. Everyone joins in, and there are made-up harmonies, ad libbed instrumental parts, and laughter as people sometimes sing the wrong words or sing a particularly bad harmony. Its music at its most joyous and its most humble; when it is not about performing but enjoying, where both perfection and mistakes are equally welcomed.

Looking back at this entire year, it is going to be hard to say good-bye. Over the past year, it has really become not a parish we work at, but our parish; the house we live in together has become a home. In reflecting on all of this, I remember the words a friend of mine said, that, “Every community and job and person that touches our hearts forever owns a piece of it.” Truly, a piece of my heart will always be here, and a piece of this place and its people will always be carried with me.