Golden moment for Monsignor Lennon

By mARIA PEPPER

Msgr Lennon with his siblings (from left): Sr Geraldine Lennon, Sr Catherine Lennon, Brigid Breen, Pat Lennon and Pauline McIntyre.
Msgr Lennon with his siblings (from left): Sr Geraldine Lennon, Sr Catherine Lennon, Brigid Breen, Pat Lennon and Pauline McIntyre.
Monsignor Denis Lennon (centre) with Bishop Denis Brennan (second from right) and three of his former classmates, from left: Fr Jimmy Ryan, Fr Tom McGrath, and Fr Bobby Nolan.
Monsignor Lennon and Cassie Keeling.
Monsignor Denis Lennon (centre) with Bishop Denis Brennan (second from right) and three of his former classmates, from left: Fr Jimmy Ryan, Fr Tom McGrath, and Fr Bobby Nolan.

The community of Clonard gathered to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the ordination of parish priest Monsignor Denis Lennon at a Mass of Thanksgiving attended by Bishop Denis Brennan and more than 30 fellow clerics from around the Diocese of Ferns.

Seventy-three years old Father Lennon, a native of Bunclody, was ordained on June 4, 1967 in St. Peter's College where he studied for the priesthood over a period of six years before going on to serve for two decades in the House of Missions in St. Senan's Parish, Enniscorthy, conducting missions and retreats in Ireland and England.

In 1987 he travelled further afield and transferred to the Ferns Mission in Sao Paulo, Brazil where he spent two years.

He was appointed to Screen/Curracloe in 1989 where he served until 1994 when he became parish priest in Clonard, arriving just in time to get stuck into the building of the new church and community centre which had been set in train by Monsignor Lory Kehoe.

A son of the late Brigid and Thomas Lennon and the eldest of their six children, Monsignor Lennon was joined at the jubilee celebration by his sisters, Sr. Kathryn and Sr. Geraldine of the FCJ Convent in Bunclody, Pauline McIntyre, Brigid Breen and his brother Pat and by his nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and grand-nephews and extended family.

The Mass which was concelebrated by Bishop Brennan and five priests including Fr. Lennon himself, was interspersed with beautiful singing by Clonard Children's Choir and the Folk and Vigil choirs directed by Ruairí Byrne. The composer of some of the hymns, Steven Warner from Notre Dame University in Indiana which has an outreach programme in Clonard, assisted with the music. Also in attendance was then priest-in-waiting Deacon Billy Caulfield who was ordained in Horeswood last weekend.

During his Homily, Bishop Brennan remarked that in June 1967, two Lennons made the news - John Lennon and the Beatles released Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band in Abbey Studios, London on June 1st and Denis Lennon and the Class of '67 were ordained in St. Peter's College on June 4.

'The wheels of time turn and Liverpool is now celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Sgt Pepper and we are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Monsignor Denis. In doing so, we celebrate and give thanks for the gift of priesthood itself. Fr. Ron Rolheiser has written: 'what we cease to celebrate, we will soon cease to cherish'.

Bishop Brennan said Monsignor Lennon's call came to him primarily through his parents Thomas and Brigid and his family who 'loved him into life and faith and journeyed with him into priesthood' and also the faith community in Bunclody and the priests whose lives and witness made him want to be like them.

'Ordination, like marriage, is about pledges and promises. It's about what we hope to be, it's about what we hope to do with what the American poet Mary Oliver has called 'your one wild and precious life'.

'Jubilee is different, expecially Golden Jubilee. It doesn't just celebrate promise, it also celebrates fulfillment. It's not just about the excitement of beginning, it's also about the joy of persevering.'

Bishop Brennan said Monsignor Lennor was blessed with the flair of the artistic and he put that talent to good use in configuring the decorating the striking structure of Clonard Church and the surrounding complex.

'As well as being parish priest of Clonard, he is also Vicar for the Wexford Deanery and he is often called upon to address issues on behalf of the Diocese. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work he does in this area,' said the Bishop.

He added: 'The American novelist Kurt Vonnegut used to say that the artist's mission was to 'make people appreciate being alive, at least a little bit'. I think that is the priest's mission too... to make people appreciate being alive, at least a little bit'.

'On your behalf and on my own, I would like to congratulate and thanks Monsignor Denis on doing this so well for the past 50 years...making people appreciate being alive...and to wish him well as he continues to do so.'

Des Robinson, the chairman of Clonard Parish Committee also offered his congratulations on behalf of a small army of parish volunteers and the community and thanked Fr. Lennon for his leadership and inspiration in Clonard where he has served for almost half of his time as a priest.

The Monsignor has been strong in encouraging lay people to become involved in the church and there are almost 200 parish volunteers active in Clonard today. He has also been instrumental in setting up new lay ministries including bereavement support and church hospitality and a pastoral council comprising clerical and lay members.

In turn, Fr. Lennon thanked everyone for taking the time to join him on the occasion of his jubilee celebration and for all their good wishes and gifts. He said many people viewed his jubilee as a personal achievement but he saw it more as his good fortune to have been allowed by the 'gift and grace of the Lord' continue for so long.

'I have felt buoyed up by the goodness of the people in all the parishes I've worked in', he said.

A presentation was made to him on behalf of the parish. Afterwards, the congregation enjoyed refreshments in the adjoining community centre.

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