The apex of our American invasion week came on Saturday, October 24th. A couple of celebrations converged together on that weekend and the parish had a blowout celebration. The evening began with the normally scheduled Saturday vigil Mass, which is the one where we are in charge of the music. For this Mass though, the parish was celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Clonard Folk Group and so all past members of the group were invited back to join with the current group in providing music for this Mass. The folk group is a dedicated group of singers and musicians who provide music for the 11:15 mass on Sunday mornings. They use everything from traditional hymnody and Irish “folk tunes” to recent compositions from Marty Haugen and our very own Cookie! It has been a great pleasure of ours to sing with this group since we arrived and to help with the planning of these masses, so it was an even greater pleasure to share this evening with them. Our commissioning and their 30th anniversary, all rolled into one massive liturgy (pun fully and unabashedly intended).
Because this was both an anniversary and a commissioning, invites were extended to clergy from throughout the diocese as well as people connected to the liturgical scene in Ferns. The Mass was celebrated by the Most Rev. Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns, who just the day before had blessed our home. There were also six priests concelebrating, a choir of about 30 (including 2 of our guests), and one of the largest congregations we’ve seen since arriving here! The music stretched out over the 30 year history of the folk group, pulling from the early days of the group and from the more recent pieces that are used. The choir sounded amazing, there were all four parts present, and the congregation was singing along (not something we’re used to over here). It was a great celebration of the ministry that this group of talented musicians has cultivated for three decades, and we are proud to be members of this beautiful tradition at Clonard.
Following the homily (which was also amazing), we proceeded with the actual commissioning of the three of us and our mission here in Ireland. The Bishop invited us to come forward and then Mr. and Mrs. Calcutt came forward as the officers of ‘The House of Bridget Inc.’ to offer testimony to the Bishop of our willingness and ability to serve the Church in Ireland. The part that I loved the most was their testimony that the hardships we faced in coming over only served to make this program all the stronger and toughened our resolve to carry out this mission. Bishop Denis then asked Fr. Denis if the parish was willing to take us on and support us in our mission. (What would have happened if he said no? We’d already been here two months!) The questions that Bishop Denis asked were not just of a liturgical and musical nature, but also that the parish would help to actually immerse us in the culture of this place so that we can better serve the people of Wexford and the Irish as a whole. It was a subtle and powerful reminder that we are not here to just come in and take over like Americans are sometimes want to do. Instead, just as we discussed when we formed in the spring, we are here to meet the Irish where they are and then to guide them to a fuller understanding and appreciation of the Church through music, liturgy, and friendship. Upon receiving the parish’s consent, the Bishop then asked us if we were willing and ready to take on this responsibility. I would like to share with you all the promise that we made in front of God, the Bishop, and our family and friends:
I promise to offer my time, talents, and skill, for the enhancement of sacred music and liturgy,
in the parish community of Clonard, for the good of all God’s people and to the Glory of God.
Having made this promise, the Bishop blessed us and our mission, sending us out to serve the people of this parish, the Diocese of Ferns, and the Church in Ireland. We were then presented with a beautiful copy of the Book of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. This is one of seven volumes that are being put out by St. John’s College in Minnesota and they are the new “St. John’s Bible“. It is a truly amazing project and we are grateful to the parish for presenting us with this volume, which now occupies a spot in our prayer room at our house.
I’m getting very good at epicly long blog posts, so I should probably wrap this one up soon. The rest of the Mass was fairly normal, although the parish also had the Bishop bless two new stained glass windows “since he was here already.” These windows commemorate the Wexford martyrs, a group of fishermen and bakers who were killed for refusing to sign an oath recognizing the British monarch as the head of the church. They are very beautiful windows and depict the martyrs as butterflies and doves, two Christian symbols for eternity. Following the mass there was a reception in the community centre with tea and biscuits, as well as a cake for both the folk group and ourselves. It was a great way to wrap up the evening and say thank you to everyone who has made our first few months here so much easier.
Now the evening didn’t entirely end there. It was after all, still the Opera festival, and during the festival they have a series of singing competitions called “Singing Pubs” which are held all throughout the town at the various pubs. Saturday just happened to be the night for Simon’s Place, our establishment of choice and so following the reception we headed down for some good times at Simon’s. It was insanely crowded and I spent most of the night standing in the entryway blocking access through that door (the bouncer was appreciative because he didn’t want anyone going in that door anyway!) The singing was great, we were able to spend some quality pub time with the Calcutts and the London crew, and we even kept tabs on the ND-BC game on Mr. Calcutt’s blackberry. Once we knew the final score of that, it was a celebratory round of Guinness, and then back home for the night. I want to personally thank Mr. and Mrs. Calcutt, Cookie and Mrs. Cookie, Hayley, Steph, Claire, and Dan for coming and sharing various parts of the week with us. You all contributed in such distinct ways to making this one of the greatest weeks, not only of my time in Ireland but in recent memory. And now that we’re official…Clonard is stuck with us. What a beautiful relationship we have begun, may it continue to grow and bear fruit for many years to come.