12 MONTHS ON:
The 21st. June 2003 was not just an ordinary day, for on this day...
......St. Patrick's Website has made some progress, and some friends, the Special Olympics was very special and created very many worldwide friends, but here in Cork the celebration of Canon Liam Leaders Golden Jubilee anniversary is something that will not be forgotten for many a long year.
The following is a summary record of that event.
St. Patrick's Church, Lr. Glanmire Road, Cork, was in full splendor on the evening of the 21st. June 2003. The Altar Decoration Committee had excelled themselves with a floral display only surpassed by the beautiful mosaic altar backdrop, (a replica of Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Last Supper').The pipe organ, recently restored, gently bathed the George Pain's 'Grecian' styled and resplended arthitectural conception, in celestial sounds, while the faithful of the Parish, in their best finery, moved to fill the 150 polished pine church styled seats. It was indeed a far cry from it's early 19th century predecessor, the Brickfields Church, in use prior to the laying of St. Patrick's Church foundation stone in 1832. An occasion such as this could not be passed without paying due tribute to St. Patrick's main benefactors, the Honan family, the remains of whom lie in the vaults below the Church.
The organ sounds changed to a serious note at 6 pm with the playing of the hymn, 'Holy God, We Praise Thy Name'. The parishioners rose to greet their Parish Priest, Canon Liam Leader. In slow procession, Bishop John Buckley guided his priests, past the rows of 400 plus parishioners and friends, while from above, the stoney faces of the Twelve Apostles, with their Shields of distinction, looked on.
The 'O'Riada Mass', accompanied by the singing of 'O Bone Jesa' (Motet) and 'Hallelujah My Father' (Motet) to 'Widor Toccatto' (Organ) was celebrated in thanksgiving for Liam Leaders priesthood.
Included in the Prayers for the Faithful were,
5....'For the priests ordained 50 years ago that they may be faithful to the end in their service to the Lord and to the people, and
6....'For those who have gone before us in faith, deceased members of the '53 class'.
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord, may the bread and water we offer
bring your church the unity and peace they signify.
We ask this through Christ our Lord,
Bishop John Buckley addressed the faithful, recording the path followed by Canon Liam to this event, and giving thanks to God for this life.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Fr. Christy sprang a surprise on the Canon. Fr. Christy, in league with the Church Restoration Committee had arranged for a presentation to Canon Liam of the most up-to-date Laptop computer.
But, it didn't end there!
Fr. Christy, it had been previously learned, was celebrating his 25th year of Ordination. And unknown to him, the Church Restoration Committee had also purchased a similar Laptop for presentation to Fr. Christy. And the congregation witnessed for once, a Fr. Christy stuck for words.
Later, some 200 or so of the parishioners and friends adjourned to the nearby Gresham Metropole Hotel for Craic,Ceol, Ol 'is Bia (fun, music,drink and food).
Mr. Paddy Gilley, well known resident and chorister, took upon himself to be Master of Ceremonies for the night. Following the 'switching on' and launching the website on line by Canon Liam (on the Canon's new lap top which had been secreted to the hotel immediately following Mass), tributes were paid to Canon Leader by many people including Alderman Mairin Quill, Bernard Allen T.D. and An t-Ollamh (Professor) Sean O Coileain, University College Cork. Sean also read the tribute from Mr. Sean Kelly, Principal, Ardscoil Phobal Bheanntrai, who could not be present at the celebration.
The text of these tributes are as below;
An t-Ollamh Sean O Coileain
'Forty five years have passed since I first encountered Fr. (now Canon) Leader, who has been one of the great formative influences on my life. Were it not for him, I would never have gone to secondary school, much less to university. But, more than that, he gave a sense of confidence and self-worth to a whole generation of youths who passed from childhood into early manhood under his care as Principal of Colaiste an Spioraid Naomh, the first secondary school for boys to be established in the Bantry area. Apart from the technical school at Bantry, nothing had been previously available to them in the whole peninsular area from Castletownbeare to Schull, the nearest secondary school being at Skibbereen, quite out of reach in the age before school buses, when private cars were a luxury to which few families could aspire. Even fewer could hope to send a son to such exotic places as St. Finbarr's, Farrenferris, then still thought of as a diocesan seminary, or to St. Colman's Fermoy.
So it was at the tail end of the 1950s, as impoverished a decade as any in the previous 100 years, when the whole area was ravaged by emigration, Fr. Leader came to Bantry, having being sent by Dr. Lucey, Bishop of Cork and Ross. (Perhaps as a legacy of the Humanae Vitae controversy, Dr. Lucey is now often thought of as being conservative, even backward, in his thinking, but in matters of social policy, at least, he was both progressive and engaged.) And so it was that, drenched by rain, having cycled the six miles from Durrus Road, I came to meet Fr. Leader on a Monday morning in early September, 1958, his and my first day, the first day of the school's existence. Even then, it was but a kind of virtual existence, consisting of a couple of rooms in the Boys' Club where he and Mr. Keevers would commence proceedings. Fr. Leader cannot yet have been 30 years of age, and the task of founding a school must have been daunting, particularly in such bleak surroundings, but neither on that first day or on any other in the following five years did I get any impression other than confidence in himself and in us, his charges. We too, would have had a sense that this was an opportunity not given to those who had preceeded us by even a few years, most of whom would have graduated to the building sites of London. He gave us a belief in ourselves: that we could be as good as the next or even better, and we believed it even if it wasn't quite true. He taught us that we could be more than we were without forgetting who we were. He taught us to be proud of ourselves.
I have often thought in the intervening years that he himself could have a distinguished academic career had he chosen to take that course; instead he chose to allow others to make something of themselves. I can think of nobody who has made a greater contribution to the lives of so many of the people of Bantry, greater I would venture, than any politician or any employer. His is the kind of influences that lasts, both on the individual and on society. There will have been other influences on other people in other places; each of us will have his own version of Fr. Leader, each inadequate in itself. I speak only for one place, although, I am certain, for many people there. More than any other community, we would wish to claim him for our own.
While I realise that this may seem an unreasonable claim as we celebrate his Golden Jubilee as a priest here in St Patrick's parish, it is surely as valid as any other. Perhaps we should agree simply to share our sense of gratitude with him and with one another.'
Sean Kelly, Uaisal
'A Athair Liam, a chara, agus a dhaoine uaisle go leir, idir chleir is tuath. Now where could I have acquired such a fine and concise turn of phrase as that I wonder? First of all let me restate publicly what I have already explained to you in private. It is with the greatest regret and for the most pressing family reasons, due to a commitment given many months ago, that I and Bridie find ourselves unable to be with you tonight to share this very important event in your priestly career. In absentia, we would like to wish you a most enjoyable celebration of your Golden Jubilee, and many years of good health and enjoyment for the future.
I would like to take this occasion to thank you formally and publicly for the new direction you gave to my own personal life between 1960 and 1964. I have no wish to sound like Frank McCourt, so I am not about to give a heart-rending account of my deprived upbringing. Even if I did, I know that Sean O Coileain would refuse to convey such an account to you in public. However without being over dramatic about it, suffice it to say that but for Fr. Leader and Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh, I would not have got a Leaving Certificate, I would not have had the opportunity to go to University and I would not have become a teacher. In short, my life would have been very different and, I think, much less fulfilling.
As the present principal of Ardscoil Phobal Bheanntrai, the successor to both Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh and St. Mary's secondary school, I would like to thank Fr. Leader on behalf of the people of Bantry for the vast number of similar opportunities his work over a period of nineteen years in Bantry has provided and continues to provide for all those who reside within the catchment area of the school. I think perhaps that your work has never been properly acknowledged publicly. I would like to ensure that this occasion does not pass without some effort being made to do so. As one who has spent a mere sixteen years as principal as compared with Fr. Leader's nineteen, I feel I have some right to acknowledge his great achievement on behalf of the many students who have obtained the highest distinctions through the institution which he founded. Those of you who are regular readers of the Fold will be aware that this great work was commenced at very short notice. We have become accustomed in modern times to tasks of this magnitude requiring a feasibility study taking at least three years and then reaching the momentous conclusion that it just might be a good idea. Thank God for those simpler times when men like Fr. Leader were inspired with an idea and, in Field Marshal Montgomery's famous words on the morning of D-day, simply said 'let's go'.
In conclusion, I just want to say thank you Fr. Liam Leader for putting up with me as my headmaster all those years ago, for being a friend and confidante who was always there to listen to my most extravagant flights of fancy when I came home on holidays during my university years and for being a fair and humane principal during the five years I was a member of your staff in Ardscoil Phobal Bheanntrai. I have always seen you mainly as a man of the highest principles and your practice never betrayed those principles. One of your greatest maxims was 'the truth will make you free'. I believe that in these few words I have told nothing but the truth'.
Canon Leader's response
Following the speeches and tributes to Canon Liam, he himself gave thanks to the contributors and summarised his view on his clerical life. The most outstanding element and to which he alluded, were the women in his life. He spoke of his many appointments such as being pastor to convents and other such assignments where he was 'mothered', and in this he felt he was fortunate. And in evidence he introduced two ladies from the audience, inviting them to help him with his Golden Jubilee cake.Sr. Rosario Lordan PBVM, Pakistan, Sr. Alphonsus O'Brien PBVM, Bandon, and Canon Liam Leader PPP
And again, as further evidence of his popularity, the junior members of the Leader family, his grandniece and grandnephew, Sinead and Cormac Rowe gathered to oversee the actual blowing out of candles and the cutting of the cake.
The night whiled on with good conversation and song, and for the record, Canon Liam has a few good ones himself. The congregation was entertained with traditional Irish music by the Rowe family, and MC Paddy threw in a few jokes and stories for good measure. Food, in the form of sandwiches, cocktail sausages, savories and cake was in abundance, and there was an almost never ending refills of pots of tea and coffee.
There is no actual record of 'who pulled the door out', or indeed what time that was. Suffice to say that all who attended at St. Patrick's and the Metropole, witnessed and will remember a congregation paying tribute and giving due honour to their Parish Priest, Canon Liam Leader.