On the vigil of the first Sunday of Advent, 26 November, Bishop Tom Deenihan celebrated Mass for the families of the Disappeared in Saint Catherine’s Church, Oristown, Co Meath.
Bishop Deenihan said, “I welcome the nine families of the Disappeared, Baroness Nuala O’Loan, Sandra Peake from Wave Trauma, the organization offering support to these families, as well others who have helped from across all sectors of society. I am conscious of three families who are also suffering the added pain of not having a grave to pray at. That is cruel. It allows a family the consolation of having a grave to visit and affords the deceased the dignity of a Christian burial.
“Advent is a time of waiting. Let us pray for the nine families whose relations were killed and interred secretly in fields and bogs. Happily, six of these nine families have had their relations remains recovered, three are still waiting, praying and searching. Three of these bodies were recovered near here. While Christmas is about the coming of Christ as child, the readings of today’s Mass seem to concentrate on the Second Coming of Christ with overtures of judgment, power and glory.
“How will Christ come again? Certainly, there is the Christmas celebration, but on a more solemn note, we believe that after death, Christ will come to each one of us as judge. We are also expected to see Christ in our neighbour and, harder, act as Christ to that same neighbour. That is a point worth remembering in the context of the families of the Disappeared. Maybe too there is a case for saying that Christ comes to us every day, in but not only in the Eucharist, but also touches our lives for the better through people, places and everyday occurrences. That will also be true during the coming weeks when many depend on our sacrifices, kindness and generosity.
“The challenge for all of us at Advent is to prepare ourselves and wait for Christ when He comes again. That aspect of waiting is also central to our Mass this evening, not just in the context of Advent, but in the context of the presence of the families of the Disappeared. I welcome the nine families here tonight and the others who are also here and have supported them throughout the years. The McKee, Megraw, McConville, Simons, Wilson and Ruddy families with us have found their loved one and that has been a huge consolation. They are here to give thanks to Almighty God and to pray for those who assisted in that process and to pray also for the Lynskey, McVeigh and Maguire families who are here too but are still waiting. Waiting is never easy. When the outcome is not certain, it is more difficult. These families have lost a relative during the Troubles. The relatives of Joseph Lynskey have been waiting to find his body since 1972, the family of Columba McVeigh, who was just 19 when he was abducted, have been waiting to find a body since 1975, that is 47 years ago, and Seamus Maguire’s family have been waiting since 1973.
“During the Troubles, many were killed and buried in unmarked graves and fields throughout the country. It is also a matter of fact that some were buried near here. Some bodies, through the co-operation of those who had some information, have been recovered. Some are still missing. There is a belief that the bodies of some of those who were abducted and killed still lie near here in unmarked graves. That is why these families and I are here this evening. Time is passing. Some of those who may have some shred of information may also be getting old. Indeed, some of those who may have information or may have been involved may have died.”
Bishop Deenihan concluded, “Can I make an appeal to you again tonight? No family deserves not to have the consolation of a grave. No Christian, no child of God, no one made in the likeness of God, deserves to be abandoned in a field or bog. As people grow older and as some die, it may be easier for those who feel that they may have some scrap of information to come forward. That is our hope this evening. This message is not just for this parish, far from it, but for the wider community. To that end, I welcome the journalists who are also assisting in this compassionate campaign and will broadcast this message further afield. The Republican movement themselves are also working to resolve this issue. An independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains has been established. The Commission is utterly confidential, a confidentiality that is enshrined in Irish and British legislation and is independent of police and courts. If needs be my Office can be contacted also. My appeal tonight is not based on retribution or even justice but on compassion, decency and, simply, doing the right and honourable thing.”