Book Launch!

'Scandalous Saints and Spirited Sinners',

by Fr. Bernard Cotter

Fr. Pat Walsh and Fr. Bernard Cotter
Fr. Brian Darcy in full flight
Fr. Brian Darcy and Fr. Bernard Cotter.................a job well done!
Fr. Bernard signing..........a best seller...........the book was a sell out.............many disappointed
One of the lucky customers
Some refreshments and gentle words
More happy customers
Parish stalwarts, Pat and Mary Lane with a happy Fr. Bernard
A word of thanks

Fr. Bernard's Silver Jubilee

Beal Atha an Ghaorthaidh, 9th. June 2009

Fr. Bernard with his Dad

Fr. Bernard's Jubilee Mass

(Photographs by kind permission, Tony O'Connell, Nth. Main Street, Cork)


A Phobail Dé idir cléir agus tuatha.

Céad mile fáilte arís romhaibh go léir go dtí an ceiliuradh seo. We are gathered, with Fr. Bernard’s father, relations, his many friends, his priest colleagues, agus muintear an pharóiste, to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Fr. Bernard’s Ordination to the Priesthood. 25 blian ó shin, ar an lá seo, (on June 9th, 1984) in the Church of Christ our Light in Ballincollig he was ordained and anointed a Priest of God, (Sagart Dé) and on the following day he offered his First Mass in his home town of Dunmanway. Moladh go deo le Dia. Is cúis mór áthas é seo dúinn go léir. This is a very happy occasion, and I congratulate Bernard on reaching this special milestone on his life’s journey. And pray God’s blessing on his work. Bernard generously answered the call to serve God and his People.

Many years ago I served as a young priest here in Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh. The Ballingeary priest in those days was known to muintir na háite, as “An Sagart Óg” - tiodal fíor dheas. The parish priest at that time was none other than Fr. Bernard’s grand-uncle – Fr. Jack Bernard – he lived, soir an bhóthair, in Tír na Sideoga – half way between here and Inchigeela. He was a lovable, warm-hearted, cheerful, and I suppose, ‘roguish” parish priest’. Agus bhi beirt sagart cúnta aige – chónaig ceann amhain in Inse Gheibhleach and chónaig an cheann eile sa tsráidbhaile seo.

B’shin 1984. Ag an am sin bhí 190 sagart sa dóiseas. Inniu níl ach 115, nó mar sin. De bharr an laighdiú mór san, anois níl ach sagart amháin ag freastal ar an bparóiste mór fairsing seo.

And so our Fr. Bernard is both the Parish Priest and the Sagart óg. Agus buíochas le Dia, he fills all those roles very well, - ACH tá comhoibriu agus tacaíocht pobail an Pharóiste ag teastáil anois níos mó ná riamh. Táim cinnte nach teipfidh pobal Uibh Laoire ar an glaoch sin.

Nuair a thug Bernard cuire dom an seanmóin seo a thúirt, dúirt sé liom gan bheith ag túirt eulogy, gan bheith ag caint mar gheall ar féin. Ach Bernard, tá sé deachair gan cúpla focal a rá mar gheall ort féin.

I can’t let the occasion pass without first of all Thanking God for all that He has done through Bernard and in all the numerous people whose lives Bernard has influenced in his ministry.

Answering God’s call to Priesthood has brought Bernard in touch with many people in different parishes in Cork, like Baile an Easpaig, Ballinhassig, Douglas, Rochestown, Holy Family, Military Hill, and St. Patricks Lower Road., and also in Chicago. I remember too how he has reached out to so many people through his gifted use of the pen in his writings in Intercom, The Fold, The Tablet, and parish newsletters. There is much to be thankful for and to be proud of. At the end of the day, I know Bernard will be the first to acknowledge that it is all God’s work not his own.

In those 25 years since Bernard has been ordained we have lived through a period of rapid change in the Church and in the whole world. In 1984 we had the wind to our backs – but not so today. Yet in spite of that change, the call to priesthood is still the same today - it doesn’t change. It still is a call to SERVE - it is a call to care for people - the sick, the troubled, the bereaved – it is a call to gather people in the celebration of the Mass – to refresh and nourish them with the Word and the Eucharist; it is a call to preach God’s word, to share God’s message of hope with the people in a way that responds to the hunger deep in every human soul. It is a call to be a Good Shepherd to the flock.

I OMITTED THIS ON THE NIGHT! (but it’s all true!)

Bernard has a special gift for making God’s Word clear and understandable. He has an uncanny way of relating everyday life to the Gospel. Or better still of relating the Gospel to everyday life. Whether he is writing (for which he is particularly gifted) or preaching – everything is simple – no unnecessary big words; all is down to earth, clear and up-lifting.

For a number of years Bernard served as Editor of a magazine for the priests and religious of all of Ireland. A daunting challenge, but true to form he took to his task with zeal, imagination and thoroughness – no half measures. He made it relevant and helpful to our lives and ministry. In his little Clio car he traveled 1000s of miles, covering most of the country, meeting priests and people, listening to them, and then coming home and putting his reflections in print.

I don’t think Bernard could be in a better place than Paróiste Uibh Laoire to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of his Ordination to the Priesthood. And I couldn’t help admiring how he opened wide the doors of his home to all the people of the parish when he came here first. It was a truly big hearted and strong gesture of welcome and availability to the whole parish. A powerful way of saying, “I am glad to be here – I am here to serve.” No doubt the people appreciated Bernard’s gesture of hospitality, which is so highly valued in rural Ireland, and still so much alive in this community.

Also he is privileged to be in this place of such beauty. In seeking God in today’s world we are encouraged to be still and slow down, so that we can hear the voice of God in prayer and in the beauty of creation.

Le déanaí thugas turus mór thimpeall an pharóiste seo - And as you know if you are driving through this parish you have to take it easy. The 70 or so turns and bends on the road between Inchigeela and Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh make you slow down. All those bends really tell you - “Tog Bog E - Take it easy. And that’s a good thing. I did that and safely reached Ballingeary, and then drove on to experience the peace and tranquility of Gougane Barra, where the first Bishop of Cork, St. Finbarr, prayed.

I returned by the South Lake Road. Dárdaigh an chroí ionam ag féachaint ar áilneacht na háite. I found myself very much aware of God’s presence all around me, breathing in the beauty of creation. What a gift. It was easy to lift the heart in prayer.

Dhá bhlian ó shin bhí an táth liom go rabhas ábalta dul ar oilireacht go dti an Holy Land. Agus shiúlas na boithre a shiúl Íosa féin. It was truly a memorable experience.

Bhíos ag smaoineamh ionam féin go raibh cosúlacht ann idir an Talamh Naofa agus Paróiste Uibh Laoire. Tráchtan an Soiscéal ar “the hill country of Judea” Tá na cnuic agus na sléibhte mór thimpeall orainn anseo freisin.

Here we have towering protective mountains, hills, and lakes, the river Lee flowing from its source in the mountain on through the valley below, and I saw so many sheep and lambs grazing in the hillside fields. Tá sé fíor áluinn.

We know that Jesus himself went up the mountain to preach the Sermon on the Mount, he retired to the hills to pray, he performed many miracles near the Lake of Galilee; he went down into the waters of the Jordan. And he compared himself to the Shepherd leading his sheep out to good pasture. He used that image in describing himself and his ministry.

That’s the ideal that is set before us priests too in the Gospel - the Good Shepherd walking ahead of his flock – being close to them - gently leading them – not coercing or forcing them. But encouraging and inspiring them; protecting them from harm; healing and comforting them when they are hurt; knowing them all by name; leading them out to good pasture. May he bless you Bernard in your work of shepherding, inspiring, and encouraging the people under your care.

I am reminded of a beautiful hymn we sometimes sing on Holy Thursday, the day priests renew their commitment to their ministry. Is maith liom go mór é, agus measaim go bhfuil sé an-oiriúnach do’n ócáid seo. Agus tugann sé inspioráid do gach sagart. It goes:

We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’llers on the road:

We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you, in the night-time of your fear:

I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping:

When you laugh I’ll laugh with you.

I will share your joy and sorrow ‘till we’ve seen this journey through.

I remember when I was in Knocknaheeny parish, Mary Robinson, who was then President of Ireland, visited the parish. She gave a fine speech in the Community Centre. She went on for a while, and as she was coming to the end she said “when I go on too long my husband gives a cough.” And then she said “I think I hear him coughing now, so I’ll stop”. I think I also hear Fr. Bernard coughing now, ach sar a críochnóidh mé, ba mhaith liom an giota seo, a scríobh an sagart cáiliúl, Karl Rahner, a léamh díbh. Seo é:

“A priest is not an angel sent from heaven. He is a man chosen from among people. This means that we priests are just as human as you are, not a shade different, not one bit better – poor weak people in need of God’s mercy. The darkness of the world darkens our minds too, we travel the same road out of darkness into God’s light.

And so we beg you, let us bear your company along the road of your life; to speak God’s Word to you and to give you God’s grace. There is so much chatter in the world and there are many clever, shallow words in the world.

But I ask you, my brothers and sisters, have we not a crying need for someone to speak to us of God, of eternal life, and of grace, of sin, of judgment and of God’s mercy. Is that not still the most important message today? What more do people want? What greater and holier mission can the priest have than speaking God’s Word to his brothers and sisters.

So on such a day as this we priests can only ask you: Pray for us. Accept God’s Word and holy sacramental mysteries from us. If we are thus bound together, priests and people, then we already bear, veiled in our midst, Jesus Christ, His grace, and eternal life.

Bernard, you heard a lovely blessing on the morning of your ordination on June 9th 1984, and I now make it our prayer for you today “May God who has begun this good work in you, bring it to fulfillment”. Amen.

Go n-eirí leat.

Beannacht Dé agus Fionbarra Naofa ort. Ad multos annos. +

(Homily by Fr. Liam O'Regan, Photographs by kind permission of Tony O'Connell)