As Sister Cleopha, the Superior said, “He was outstanding in his faithfulness to duty in that role right up until a day before his death”. Last Saturday he completed the preaching of a Triduum of sermons to the Sisters. He started the Triduum on Thursday last with a sermon on Loving Trust. On Friday his topic was Total Surrender and on Saturday his subject was Cheerfulness – Christian joy.
Christian Joy – Loving Trust – Total Surrender – what a lovely summary of his own life. What a finale with which to pull down the final curtain on such an illustrious life.
Monsignor was a native of Dundalk, Co. Louth where his brother Bryan and family still live and to where he loved to return. After his ordination as a priest in 1953 he was appointed to teach in St. Patrick’s Academy here in Dungannon and he was destined to spend the rest of his life here in Co Tyrone – a county he came to know and love and serve so well in so many ways.
• In 1961 he became President of St. Patrick’s Academy;
• In 1983 he was appointed Parish Priest of Coalisland,
• In 1994 he came back to Dungannon as Parish Priest and Vicar General of the Archdiocese
That bare sketch of his life story in no way does justice to the person he was or to the huge contribution which he made to the life of the Church – the Body of Christ – in this town – in this diocese – in this country.
He worked for the Armagh Regional Marriage Tribunal since 1976. Only last week he expressed his thanks to the Tribunal for their most recent gift – a further batch of cases to be decided. He was also Director of Vocations for many years. But really, I think this is the last thing he would want me to be doing – listing his achievements for example.
He got an Honorary Doctorate in recent years and not many heard about it. So if he were here today he would probably say, like St. Paul “What have I that I have not received and if I have received why should I glory as if I had not received”. And yet I think it is important that we thank God for all given to and through Monsignor.
It is important that we reflect on how God worked through his long and busy and fruitful life to serve the Body of Christ.
I first got to know Monsignor not in the Halls of the Academy or in the corridors of Maynooth but on the side lines of Pearse Park GAA ground, Ballybay. It usually took place on crisp Saturday mornings in November, way back in the 1970s at McRory Cup football matches. I was reminded of this by something the late Monsignor Faul wrote in 1983 of Liam when he left the Academy to become Parish Priest of Coalisland and I quote:
Fr McEntegart sorted out the cheers and tears and problems of adolescence with quiet dignity and directed them safely along the paths of life. It was not done in an hour or a day but by thirty years of patient work. It did not stop at 3.30 pm or on Friday afternoon; it went into conferences and seminars and meetings from Belfast to Armagh to Dublin to get the best of the new ideas and wed them to the old, it went into wake houses and funerals, to weddings and baptisms, onto the sports fields and onto the Irish Colleges of Donegal, especially Teilein, his second College, dedicated to Teanga na Ngael”.
Yesterday afternoon I had a phone call from Sean O Labra sending his sympathy and apologies for not being here today.
I would like to think of those three talks as Monsignor’s spiritual legacy to all of us. When he had finished – Sister Superior asked him for the text. ‘Ah no Sister’ he said, ‘I will need them for next year’. With typical modesty he did not want any acclaim. But I think we all need them now and I would like to bequeath them, on his behalf, to three different categories of people.
The first one Loving Trust – I think he would want to give to his family and to his dearly beloved friends in Dungannon. “Do not let your hearts be troubled; Trust in God still and trust in me”
“There are many rooms in my Father’s house” Jesus says. “O sacred heart of Jesus I place all my trust in you” is one of our most popular and favourite prayers. God has great plans for each and every one of us. Jesus – His Son – is right now preparing a room for each one of us. Monsignor is already settled into his room. He is waiting there for us. We know the way to that room already. Jesus is the way – he is the sat nav that will get us there. Jesus is the Truth we follow his way by believing His truth. He is the life. He has the message of Eternal Life. What else do we want?
I think the second talk – Total Surrender – Monsignor would want to leave to his past students of St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon. That vast collection of students whose characters and personalities he helped to shape over a quarter of a century. Now I am well aware that the message of total surrender should never be lightly given to Tyrone men. But Monsignor was talking about our total surrender to God on Friday last and perhaps he had some slight premonition that his own final surrender was not too far away. He was discussing with the Sisters – Mother Teresa’s birthday – who would be 100 years tomorrow if she were alive. The Sisters were urging Monsignor to press on valiantly towards the 100 in his own life. “Oh no” he said “I wont live to be a hundred”.
There will come a day when each one of us will have to make the final surrender of our life to God. Monsignor was advocating that in preparation for that final surrender. We should begin to prepare now with a total surrender to God by placing ourselves entirely at the disposal of the Father as Jesus and Mary had placed themselves at the disposal of the Father. He went on to say that by giving ourselves completely to God – as God had given himself to us – we are placing ourselves entirely at his disposal.
I think that there we are at the heart of what Monsignor Liam’s life was all about. He went on to speak about cheerful obedience to the Will of the Father. He saw it as the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. That power of the Spirit can give us the freedom – real freedom – but the only freedom that matters, is the freedom that allows us to forget ourselves and our own selfish interests and allows ourselves to grow more like Jesus – especially in the service of the poor and the needy. From that service comes real joy. I know it was real heady stuff – 10 A star level no doubt – but then the Academy boys and girls never aimed at less than the stars.
I would see it as applying today to the work of implementing the Diocesan Aim. That Aim challenges us as a local Church to be the Body of Christ.
Liam’s final gift – I think he would want me to give to his beloved Clerus Armachanus – the priests and bishops of Armagh in whose company he delighted and whose wellbeing he treasured.
I think Monsignor Liam would want us to remember that real joy is built on the firm belief that we have been made by a good and loving God, saved by a good and loving God and certain to be forgiven, by a good and loving God, if only we ask. Mary says: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savour – Her way can be our way”
St Francis of Assisi is perhaps one of the best known representatives of the experience of Christian joy. He defined perfect joy as having endured humiliation, beating, hunger in the cold and rain, as a gift through which we conquer ourselves for the love of Christ.
Again I know it is the 10 A star class but it makes the point – joy does not depend on feeling good or bad. People have commented how Monsignor could combine cheerfulness and serenity in his own life – despite all his many pressing concerns.
The life and death of each one of us has its influence on others. If we love- we live for the Lord. If we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead, we belong to the Lord. As we mourn the death of Monsignor Liam, we ponder his life and death so that it will have its maximum influence on us all.
Monsignor Liam died on the Feast of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven. It was entirely appropriate. On Thursday last he had spoken eloquently of Our Lady’s total trust in the providence of God. That trust of Mary had inspired him throughout his life. It led him to have total confidence in God’s love and care for him at all times.
He was Vicar General of this diocese. In other words, he was to help the Bishop run the diocese and his help was invaluable. There are three titles which we apply to Mary. I found they could also be applied to Monsignor Liam. They are:
Comforter of the Afflicted and
Cause of Our Joy
He was a wise and honest advisor. His advice came not from an emotional reaction but from a prayerful and intelligent analysis of the situation. In times of trial and tribulations he was always the one with the strong word of consolation and, as already mentioned, the cause of His joy.
My prayer is that he has already heard those words from Mary, the Queen of Heaven. Good and faithful servant of Mary’s son, come and enjoy your well deserved rest after your life so full of work on behalf of His Body – the Church.
Liam, a cara, a sagart uasal, ath mhor ort I gconaí agus beír bua
RT REV MGR LIAM McENTEGART, PE VG
A Pobal Dhé, cuirim fáilte roimh gach einne anseo inniu. Bhi an oir Monsignor Liam ina shagart sa saol alhas. Anois iarraimis aran Thiarna, é a failtiu isteach I sanctóir na bhflaitheas.
I welcome you all as we gather to pay our last respects to Monsignor Liam McEntegart. I offer my sympathy to all who mourn his sudden death. To his brother, Bryan and to the entire McEntegart clan, I offer heartfelt sympathy – My own personal sympathy and the sympathy of all here present. Your great loss is our great loss also. In this moment of sorrow we ask God to console us all.
We thank God today for Monsignor Liam’s long and very full life. We thank God for the many graces given to him and through him to so many other people.
Today I also want to thank the McEntegart family for their brother – their uncle – who was a priest for 53 years. I want to thank them for the faith which he received within their family – a gift which he appreciated warmly, welcomed heartily and lived to the full.
In this Mass we ask God to give him a merciful judgment and to pardon him whatever sins he may have committed.