Fr. Harry Bohan – Harvest Thanksgiving – September 2017 Kilmurray
For many years I have admired the work and leadership of Fr. Harry.
For decades now he has been an inspiring leader at local and national level and has been a champion of rural development, along with many other worthy causes. A number of months ago I got a call from someone in the diocese saying they were planning have have an uplifting celebration for their beloved Fr. Harry. I had been aware that there had been a number of challenging situations in the parish and it was felt that the on-going hard work and diligent leadership of their father of faith should be recognised.
Arranging the function
The only way, it was figured it might be possible to get around the modest padre was to plough ahead and organise the Harvest Festival as normal and to for the event for Fr. Harry to piggy back on that. It was quite a challenge to keep the background work quiet from the ever alert pastor, but I think it may have worked!!!
Fr. Harry as you know is a Native of Feakle, Born on the 26th of July, 1938 and was ordained to the priesthood on 23rd of June, 1963. He went on postgraduate studies in sociology until 1966 was emigrant chaplain in Birmingham until being seconded to Muintir na Tíreas community officer in 1968. From the early 1970s he was appointed consultor for community affairs to SFADCO. He was founder and director of Rural Resource Organisation, Chairman of National Council of Priests of Ireland, chaplain to Carrigoran nursing home, director of the centre for spirituality and Céifin as well as being very instrumental in the founding of Cahercalla Community Hospital in Ennis, director of pastoral planning in the diocese of Killaloe, assistant priest in Shannon and from 2006 parish priest of Sixmilebridge and Kilmurray. As you know well here he has done some recent pioneering work on community and family and has been sharing the positive outcome of that with interested groups around the diocese.
On this historic All-Ireland day- for many people it is as a GAA manager, selector, mentor that Fr. Harry is best known at club and county level, and ministering in one of the most succesful and famous sporting parishes in the country – his talents in this area have been well used in in a practical and advisory or consultative basis.
Words synoymous with Fr. Harry
Community, Family, Parish, Spirituality, values led change, faith, priesthood, Church, Jesus Christ are words that sum up the man we recognise and thank today.
Just look at some of the groups represented here today to mark this occasion:Men’s shed, Mart and Farming Community, Kilmurray Graveyard, Kilmurray Hall, Choir Groups, Meaning of Life Group, GAA, Bereavement support group, Elderly, St. Vincent de Paul, Harvest Festival, Tidy towns, Macra na Feirme, to name but a few!
Céibhfhionn – goddess of inspiration
The Céifin Conference, the brain-child of Fr. Harry was one of the most inovative, useful and admired projects in the country for over a decade. The word Céifin was abbreviated from Céibhfhionn – the Celtic goddess of inspirtation. Fr. Harry has been just that to so many people for over 50 years of dedicated ministry. He is truly an inspiration!
The main dynamic of Céifin was to Search for values – , values that give inspiration to our lives. It focused on Family, community, a vibrant economy with ethos and values, spirituality, meaning.
Just look at some of the interesting and relevant themes of the conferences in some of the years:
- Working towards balance
- Values and ethics – can I make a difference?
- Imagining the future
- Filling the vacuum
- Freedom – licence of liberty
- Tracking the Tiger – a decade of change
- Who’s in charge? Towards a leadership of service.
Living life to the full
The glory of God is human kind fully alive – St. Irenaeus. That has been the lot of the man we honour here today. Fr. Harry has certainly lived life to the full and brought others along that path with him.
The title of his recent excellent book – Swimming up stream – Finding positives in a negative Ireland is based around a quotation from the great G.K. Chesterton:
A dead things goes with the stream.
Only a living thing can go against it.
Another favourite quotation of Fr. Harry in that book is:
The salmon goes upstream to generate new life.
This man has been a man who has generated much new life through his Christlike presence in his pastoral ministry.
Sagart ar Fad
In the section in the same book “Reflection on the priesthood” Fr. Harry talks about the necessity to move from ‘authority leadership’ to ‘servant leadership’. Fr. Harry has lived this out each day of his life. There is a phrase they use in Connemara to comment on the real deal of a priest. One who does what one is supposed to on the tin so so speak – the phrase is Sagart ar fad é! He is a Total priest…. Sagart ar fad an Athair Harry, go smior, ó bhunn go barr.
Thanks and Blessing
As you know the past few months have not been easy in the parish and in the locality. Through all of this Fr. Harry has been a rock of support to so many. This occasion, apart from being the annual Harvest occasion is to give your Fr. Harry a boost and to say thank you… May you continue to go from strength to strength, to inspire many, swim further and further up stream where you will always source new life for yourself and for all your come into contact with.