AROUND 9.30pm at St. Mary’s GAA club in Leixlip on 1 September, there was talk of the miracle of loaves and fishes, writes Henry Bauress.
It was not thought that either Fr. Michael Hurley, the chief guest at his going away party, or Bishop Raymond Field, would perform the miracle.
Was Cork born Fr. Hurley, leaving the Parish Of Our Lady’s Nativity in Leixlip after nine year, indirectly responsible for fears of a food shortage?
Historians will determine who, if any was left without on the evening, but the large crowds that packed the Church for a 7.30pm thanksgiving and who later attended at the GAA club were a testimony to the esteem in which Fr. Hurley was held by so many.
He brought out laughter when he said: “I’m getting out alive,” noting that three previous parish priests, Frs Hyland, Keavney and O’Sullivan, had died while parish priest there, two of them aged in their 60s.
Fr. Hurley, who will have a retreat in Wales and a visit to the Holy Land before returning to the Archdiocese of Dublin, estimated he had stood before the parishioners - “an extremely tolerant and patient people” - over 3,000 times in his nine years.
Speaking in the presence of his own mother, Theresa, his sister, Ann, nieces, Catriona and Eileen and nephew, Michael, and fellow priests, he said he was “very conscious I’m with friends”.
Fifty two groups from the parish were represented in the ceremony. “I love this town and its history and am conscious I am part of it,” he said.
In particular, he welcomed Bishop Raymond Field, Town Council chairman, Joe Neville, and Rev. Scott Peoples from the Church of Ireland.
Rev. People said Fr. Hurley had “set new standards in a wonderful invitation to all those new members of the community.” He was grateful for “his wonderful cordial kindness he extended to the Church of Ireland in Leixlip” for his “gifts and wonderful enthusiasm” and “his unstuffy evangelicalism”.
At the end of the ceremony, Fr. Hurley has a special words of praise for sacristan, Paddy Kennedy, “a beacon of all the best in humanity.”
He described Mr. Kennedy as “the real parish priest,” and embraced him as he handed over a bunch of keys. He also had special mentions words for Sr. Liz, Emma Doran and John Stafford.
As he invited everyone to the GAA hall for the party to begin there was a cheer from Ciara, a special Olympian.
“Thank you all for the beauty of this evening,” he told the congregation.