Homily at the funeral Mass for the Rt. Rev. Mons. John McGrane
Church of St. Mochua, Derrynoose
Sundsay 10th. February, 2008.
The Most Rev. Gerard Clifford.
Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh.
Monsignor John McGrane was ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Armagh on 21st June, 1953. He served in the parishes of Darver, Togher, Cooley, Ardee and was appointed Parish Priest of Mullaghbawn in August 1981. He was appointed Parish Priest of Cooley in 1991 from where he retired to become Pastor Emeritus in Derrynoose in 2000 as Pastor Emeritus. I use the word ‘retired’ with some caution because it was in his so-called years of retirement that John McGrane did some of the most challenging work of his life.
John was first and foremost a pastor. He was a man who set high standards for himself and for others. In many ways he was a mentor to the young priests of the diocese. As Parish Priest people often commented that John McGrane was so lucky always to have young priests around him. That was not altogether an accident. In fact repeatedly he was sent young priest because he was well known to be an outstanding mentor and teacher. In previous times young priests were sent out to their new parishes under the guidance of wise and learned men. John fulfilled that role admirably. In fact I remember as a young Bishop visiting John on many occasions and going on long walks to be guided and directed by a man of wisdom. Today many priests of the diocese owe much to the encouragement and direction given them by John McGrane.
John McGrane was one of the outstanding priests of the Archdiocese of Armagh, a pastor, mentor, iconic figure for generation after generation of priests. Parish after parish he was exemplary in his ministry and in his work. His commitment as a priest was total. At Diocesan Assemblies, Conferences, gatherings of all kind John was first in the field and last to leave.
All his life he was surrounded by family and friends. His native Parish of Kilmore may not be the biggest parish in the Diocese but Kilmore and Mullavilly were given unparalleled prominence in any discussions and debates at diocesan level. Mullavilly was home. It would be the arbiter and judge of all projects. All plans were assessed on how the people of Mullavilly would react. That was the esteem John had for his native parish. Family gatherings were part and parcel of weekly life. There were the calls home, the family celebrations and, of course, the football. Wherever John ministered the GAA was an important part of parish and community life but Armagh County was in a totally different sphere. Armagh was the love of his life and Armagh’s victory in the All-Ireland in 2002 was the highpoint of his involvement in football over many years. It was all reflected in the new wave of enthusiasm for the County team and was celebrated handsomely the length and breadth of the county.
John Mc Grane is remembered in the parishes where he served as a man of vision. He had a vision for renewal of the Church and was proud to be involved in renewal at parish and diocesan level. He saw the need for change and he was first to point out the need for structural reorganisation in the parishes he served. If Vatican II changes in liturgy were to be implemented then structural changes had to be made to the fabric of the Church. If we were to have full participation of lay people in the liturgy then reorganisation of the Church was part of that.
He took that work seriously. So much so that everywhere he went the churches, parochial houses, the Church plant, the schools were of the highest standard. John was a superb architect. He knew what was wanted and he addressed the need. It was all done efficiently and efdfectively. Nothing was too good for God’s house. Only the very best was good enough.
When the restoration and refurbishing of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh was begun by Cardinal Brady it was obvious that John McGrane was the ideal man to head up the work. He was appointed chairman of the Restoration Committee. It was an inspired choice. From the beginning of the work John McGrane applied himself with an energy and enthusiasm that inspired the rest of us. This was an enormous undertaking. There were sensitive decisions to be made, work of previous generations to be respected, architects to be employed, plans to be drawn, sites to be cleared, builders to be instructed, engineers to oversee the work and endless meetings. It was an awesome task. The great ceremony of rededication on 25th May, 2003 will be remembered for generations to come. The groundswell of admiration was a clear affirmation of the work done. All of it was done in the name of God. When it came to the Cathedral nothing was too good for the house of God. Today the completed work is regarded as one of the most successful restorations of our time.
Today we thank Cardinal Brady for that. We also thank Mons John McGrane for his commitment and dedication in seeing that work brought to fruition. As a token of appreciation for his outstanding work in the restoration of the Cathedral John was appointed a Prelate of Honour, ‘Monsignor’, on 1st. October 2003.
One might have thought that the work of restoration of the Cathedral was sufficiently challenging and exhausting to suffice for one lifetime. Mons McGrane went on to refurbish and renew this beautiful Church of St Mochua here in Derrynoose to include the ambo, tabernacle and altar brought from the Cathedral in Armagh. It was an opportunity he could not resist and we see the results in this beautiful Church today.
Today we thank God for the example and dedication of a priest who was dear to all of us. We have lost one of the men who inspired and directed generation after generation of priests and lay people here in the Archdiocese. To his sisters, brothers and wide circle of family and friends we extend our deepest sympathies. We pray that he may be with God in Heaven.