Dr Francis Lenny

Dr Francis Lenny1The parish of Kilmore was en-fete on Sunday for the climax of the celebrations marking the elevation of their parish priest to the office of Auxiliary Bishop in the diocese.

Practically everyone In the parish turned up to enjoy a relaxed and varied programme of sport ranging from tug-o-war to ladles’ football. In spite of the fact that competitors in all races were treated to lemonade – a high standard of competition was maintained!

Midway through the afternoon, Mr. Joseph Rafferty chairman of the organising committee, delivered an eloquent address to Bishop Lenny. He began by saying that his delight at the ordination of their parish priest as bishop was tinged with regret. knowing that his wider duties must take him from the parish. Although there was apparently a good chance that for some time to come the Bishop would be in residence in the parish, his wider responsibilities must eventually claim his total attention. Mr. Rafferty hoped that the Crozier, which he then presented on behalf of the people of Kilmore, would always remind the Bishop of them and keep them in his prayers.

To hilarious applause, Mr. Rafferty then outlined his manoeuvring of his committee to discover Bishop Lenny’s preference in relation to the other object they wished to present. Then, to the surprise of the Bishop – but of no-one else – Mr. Rafferty asked him to accept as a sincere token of the affection they had come to have for him, in the two eventual years he had been their parish priest, the keys of a car, which had been concealed in the crowd.

Accepting the gifts, Bishop Lenny said that he felt it most appropriate that the crozier, the symbol of his pastoral function as a bishop, should be given to him by the people of his own parish. He said that while the generosity of the people of Kilmore was a by-word in the diocese and, indeed, throughout Ireland, the budren of sacrifice for such a small community, in making such generous gifts, was so far beyond any expectation of what might be appropriate to the occasion, that he was genuinely lost for words. The recollections of the warmth of friendship shown him since he had come to the parish; of these most generous gifts; and the happy atmosphere of the setting in which the presentation had been made, would be with him all his life.

The programme of races and football then proceeded and was just completed before the long-threatened downpour began. The day’s activities were rounded off with a disco for the teenagers of the parish. Catering for the day was in hands of the ladies of the parish.


Parocial House Bombed

Parocial House BombedFather Frank Lenny and another priest were talking in the sitting  room of the Parocial House at Mullavilly  when they heard the sound of breaking glass. Father Lenny rushed out ont door in time to see masked men jump into a car and drive off in the direction of Ballylisk.

One minute later, the bomb which had been thrown through a window exploded, causing extensive damage to the west wing of the house and severely damaging a new Volkswagen car which Father Lenny bought that day Chief Superintendent Charles Rodgers of Portadown RU.C. said last night, “This was a definite murder attempt. There was no warning, I am appalled at the callousness of the people who left the explosives as they knew there was someone in the house.”

Shortly after the blast, the west wing of the house caught fire and a nearby resident telephoned the Portadown police and fire brigade. The fire brigade fought the blaze at great personal risk as army experts had not determined if there was another bomb at the scene.  Another hazard the firemen faced was the acute shortage of water which had to be brought from a considerable distance
A man purporting to be a member of the outlawed Protestant ‘Ulster Freedom Fighters’ telephoned the BBC in Belfast about an hour after the explosion and claimed responsibility. Roadblocks were set up throughout the County soon after the incident in an effort to find the terrorists, but nothing was found and police investigations are continuing.

Tuesday night’s bomb was the fourth terrorist attack over the past 18 months on property belonging to Mullavilly Catholic Parish In late 1972 an attempt was made to burn the Church and on the same night the nearby schoolhouse was completely destroyed by fire Several months later another attack resulted in the burning to the ground of the Catholic Parochial Hall.

The two communities in Mullavilly were drawn closer together by Tuesday s blast when neighbouring friends of Father Lenny and residents in the area helped out Chief Superintendent Charles Rodgers of Portadown RUC said in a statement on Wednesday morning that it was most fortunate that the two priests escaped “If they had stayed in the house they would almost certainly have been killed in the explosion ”

Second Bombing Outrage

Bishop Lenny is Laid to Rest

Bishop LennyThousands of people both priests and laity from all parts of the Archdiocese of Armagh were united in mourning at the funeral of Bishop Francis Lenny in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Wednesday. In overcast weather, crowds filed past the open coffin from early morning until shortly before noon when the lying-in-state concluded. On Tuesday night the remains were removed from the late Bishop’s parish at Mullavilly to the Cathedral. The long funeral procession had come the eight miles from the church at Mullavilly where 49-year-old Dr. Lenny had been P.P. for the last six years. The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr. Tomas O Fiaich, in cope and mitre, received the coffin at the Cathedral entrance. It was then borne by six priests, three of whom were ordained by Bishop Lenny last year, to rest on a black draped cataflaque before the High Altar. Present at the ceremony was the Bishop of Brentwood, Most Rev. Dr. Patrick Casey, representing the British Hierarchy. After Solemn Mass, celebrated by Most Rev. Monsignor James Lennon, P.P., V.G., Drogheda, the lid was removed from the simple coffin of solid oak to reveal the Bishop dressed in chasuble and mitre. Shortly afterwards the first mourners began filing past. During the Mass, Scouts from the First Armagh St. Patrick’s Troop, formed a guard of honour around the catafalque. After the Solemn Requiem Mass on Wednesday, Bishop Lenny was buried in the small cemetery beside his church at Mullavilly. Amongst the hundreds of sympathy messages received by Archbishop O Fiaich was one from the Taoiseach, Mr. Jack Lynch. Councillors representing all shades of political opinion on the Council have paid a silent tribute to Bishop Lenny. And a message of sympathy is to be sent the Church authorities.

The remains of Dr. Francis Lenny, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh, were laid to rest in a tiny churchyard at his he-loved Mullavilly amid the south Armagh apple groves yesterday afternoon. Clergy and public representatives from North and South of the Border travelled to the townland, eight miles from Armagh, to pay tribute to the59-year-old bishop. Hundreds of the parishioners that he had known as parish priest of Kilmore and Mullavilly for the past six years also converged on the 18th century church to honour the man they had recalled as “wee Fr. Lenny.” They came from Cornacriebe, Mullyahead, Lisaveague, Ballylisk, and Brackagh, braving the wind and intermittent rain in their mantillas, box hats, overalls and Sunday suits, to bid a final farewell,  “Will that field hold the motors?” the red faced man who was in charge of the stubble field-cum-car park next to the church, asked as he saw the parishioners arrive in droves. It held the motors but nothing could hold the sorrow that relatives and friends felt as they broke down around the graveside. Dr. Tomas O Fialch had summed it up when during the Requiem Mass prior to the funeral he described Dr. Lenny as a selfless man devoted to his flock. Dr. O Fialch said he had traveled all over the world as secretary to two Cardinals but he had always retained his great love for and interest in the people of Armagh.  He had been honoured by the church but he still remained the modest, unassuming gentle man that always endeared him to his people. The Archbishop said that his own association with Dr. Lenny showed him in this light. He had first met him In 1953 when he had taken him under his wing as a newly ordained priest in Maynooth. When the Holy Father appointed him to the See of Armagh he found that Dr. Lenny had again been there to ease him through the initial difficulties. He was a tireless and unceasing worker for the people and the Church, Dr.0 Fiaich said. ”

He was tried and tested in the mire of suffering and pain which he endured in the last nine months of his life,” Dr. O Fiaich added, ” and he proved a shining example of resignation to God’s will.” A grey, heavy pall hung over the neat, hilly south Armagh countryside as the people who had known Dr. Lenny best filed into the narrow Mullavilly cul-de-sac with some of the most prominent clergy in the country to offer a final prayer. ” Let us pray with confidence to God, who gives life to all things, that he will raise up this mortal body to the perfection and company of the saints,” they said in unison with Dr. O Fiaich.

The attendance at the Mass and funeral included: the Papal Nuncio, Most Rev. Gaetano Allibrandi, Bishop Patrick Casey, Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales; the Bishop of Down and Conor, Most Rev. William Philbin; the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Most Rev. Cahal Daly; the Bishop of Derry, Most Rev. Edward Daly; the Bishop of Dromore, Most Rev. Gerard F.Brooks; the Bishop of Kilmore, Most Rev. Francis McKiernan; the Bishop of Raphoe, Most Rev. Anthony McFeely; the Bishop of Clogher, Most Rev Patrick Mulligan; the Bishop of Meath, Most Rev. John McCormack; the Bishop of Ossory, Most Rev. Peter Birch; The bishop of Ferns Most Rev. Donal Herlihy; the Bishop of Kerry, Most Rev. Kevin McNamara; the Bishop of Elfin, Most Rev. Dominic Conway and the Bishop of Achonry, Most Rev. Thomas Flynn. The Ven. Archdeacon Crooks represented the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, Most Rev. G. O. Simms. Dr. O Fiach presided at the Requiem Mass, assisted by Fr. P. J. Early, a first cousin of Dr. Lenny and Fr. Liam McEntaggart, a class mate. The Minister of State, Mr. Tom Fitzpatrirk, represented the Taoiseach and the Government. Mr. Austin Currie attended on behalf of the SDLP

30th Anniversary Mass

Bishop Francis Lenny

30th Anniversary Mullavilly

16 July 2008

Homily given by Monignor Liam McEntaggart

I welcome you and thank you for coming this evening to join the Lenny family, the parishioners of Kilmore, and friends to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the death of the late Bishop Francis Lenny and I wish to thank Fr John Connolly for kindly arranging this Mass. His classmates who were ordained with him appreciate your presence. Bishop Lenny died on 16 July, 1978, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. . It is most fitting that this anniversary Mass is celebrated here in Kilmore where the Bishop was Parish Priest, but also because it is the native parish of Mgr John McGrane, a class mate of the bishop in Armagh College and Maynooth, and a life long friend , who died on 7th February this year, just under 30 years later.

Bishop Lenny was born in Cookstown, Co Tyrone. He received his early education at Holy Trinity Primary School, Cookstown, St Patrick’s College, Armagh, and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he was ordained on 21st June 1953. After further studies in Maynooth, he was appointed Diocesan Secretary to Cardinal Conway in Armagh. He remained there until 1974 when he was appointed Auxiliary-Bishop of Armagh and Parish Priest here in Kilmore, where he died four years later at the early age of 49.
Those are the bare facts and it does not attempt do justice to the priest and the kind of man he was. He was above all a modest man who carried his ecclesiastical honours lightly.

I ask you to join with family friends and priests present in offering our Eucharist in praying for him, in thanksgiving to God for the gifts he gave to Bishop Lenny, in gratitude for the good he did, and the good example he gave throughout his life, throughout the Diocese of Armagh.

Looking down the years one can afford to take a more realistic and sober look on th death of a family member , a friend and colleague.

In his letter to the Thessalonians , St Paul reproached those whose sorrow over the loss of a loved one is excessive: “We want you to be quite certain”, he said, “about those who have died, to make sure you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope”. “To live in the body means to be exiled from the Lord” he said elsewhere, and he also reminds us that we do not have here a lasting home, we live in a kind of tent, at death the tent is folded up and we depart for the permanent home promised by the Lord. To die is to go home to the Father’s house.

The death of Francis Lenny death was not the final curtain on a life. We are gathered here around the table of the Eucharist, and he too is gathered around the Lord. He is now closer to the Lord, enjoying that closer union with the Lord which we also hope to share in more fully one day. . We are already beginning to share in that future eternal union with the Lord through our Baptism and by celebrating the Eucharist here. In that sense we are still very close to our deceased friend, and united with him in a new, deeper, more spiritual sense.

In this Mass, and in every Mass, we, the living, are united with the dead around the Lord. We, living in the present, are united with those who have attained what we hope for one day.

But we are united, not in sorrow, we are also united by something else, our Faith. Confronted with the reality of death, we also have the reality of our Faith. “That faith is not “a maybe” or “I hope so” or fantasy or wishful thinking, but a reality. Our Faith opens our minds to the whole picture about life, death, and what happens after death. Only in the light of our Faith can we begin to understand what has happened to our deceased friends and how we move on from here.

When in our Faith we speak about heaven, and resurrection, and the next life, we do not speak about these things primarily because they give us consolation and strength. They certainly do that, but the primary reason we speak of these things is because they are true. God has spoken His Word to us; we hear it in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church, and we respond to it by saying, “Yes, I believe; it is true!” God has broken the silence about death, and told us that He has conquered it! God did not leave us in the power of death. He sent Christ, who died and rose again and conquered death!

Because of this, a Christian is not silent in the face of death! Death seems to have the last word. But we who believe are not silent. We speak! Christ is risen! Death has been conquered.

Therefore our faith tells us that our loved ones have not gone from us for ever. They have not disappeared into nothingness. They have not ceased to exist. They have merely departed for that farther shore on the other side of life which is the final destination of all of us.

Writing about death, a spiritual writer recently wrote. I quote.

I am standing on the seashore. Suddenly a ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze, and starts out for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she is only a ribbon of white cloud just above where sea and sky mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, ‘There! She’s gone!’ Gone where? Gone from my sight – that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says, ‘There! She’s gone!’ there are other voices ready to take the glad shout, ‘There! She comes!’ And that is dying.
I am sure that Bishop Francis was on that other shore to take up the glad shout “Here, he comes,” here she comes” when Sr Declan and Mgr John McGrane were arriving there.

Jesus said that he “came to serve”. The priest shares in the priesthood of Christ. His mission is the mission of Christ. It is a mission of service. Above all it should be a selfless service. A life given for the people he serves. Jesus acted with compassion and healing in the face of sickness and even death. Today as we remember once more the life of a faithful priest and bishop, we pray once more for him and we remember that it is a special occasion for thanksgiving. for a life of service, we say, quite simply, “Thank You, Lord, for Bishop Francis Lenny and his life of service to us”