A happy and peaceful Christmas to all our Parishioners and to all who are visiting our Parish at this time. A special wish and prayer for Portlaoise people all over the World – so many of our young people have left our shores to make their way in Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada,England and other far away places.
Christmas with its heightened sense of family, makes absence all the more painful. There are also empty places at the tables of all who have lost loved ones during the year. We will remember our emigrants and our departed and those who miss them in our Masses and prayers over Christmas time. Some of our emigrants might like to get a flavour of home by joining our celebrations via the webcam broadcast of our services – www.portlaoiseparish.ie.
The Priests of the Parish are very grateful for the support and encouragement we receive in our Ministry here in Portlaoise. We do not take that support and encouragement for granted and greatly appreciate it. Again we had some changes in personnel during the year. Fr. Jimmy O’ Reilly was recalled by his Society, St. Patrick’s, Kiltegan. We send Christmas greetings to him. We welcomed Fr. Paddy Byrne, in September. We dare to hope that we will get through 2013 without further changes to ‘the team’!
As priests serving in the Parish we are continually encouraged and edified by the great numbers who worship with us, not only on Sundays, but also on weekdays. Over 600 people are actively involved in Parish through our Choirs, Ministers of the Word and Eucharist, Altar Servers, Youth Group, Collectors, promoters of the Parish Lotto, Bingo workers and our various Parish support groups and committees. In July 35 of our Young folk enjoyed being pilgrims on the Santiago de Compostela walk in Spain and 17 young people accompanied the Parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes as helpers. We are fortunate to have such an active Youth Group – they enrich our Parish as is evidenced again this weekend with the live crib. Many of them have achieved a John Paul ll award through service to Parish and Community and others are working towards this award. There are many reasons to be thankful and hopeful. I thank the members of our Community Employment Group and our Tus workers whose services to the Parish are enormous and greatly appreciated. A big ‘thank you’ also to all our Parish Staff, our Sacristans and all at the Parish Centre who provide a great service to the Parish and the Community of Portlaoise. The Award given to the Centre at the Community Awards is well deserved and is to the credit of the staff.
It is a long standing ambition of the Parish to improve the infrastructure of our Parish Primary Schools and to have sufficient space to accommodate all who choose a Parish School and thank God we can report progress. Work will begin, please God, on the School project at Aughnaharna (Summerhill) during the coming year. Hopefully work will begin on a new school for Scoil Bhríde in the following year.
At Christmas we remember that God has come near to us in Jesus Christ, our ‘Emmanuel’. It is a time when we are reminded of the hope that we experience through the coming of our Saviour. At the moment, there is a focus in the news on the many problems facing us in the Country and in the Church. Many people feel burdened with financial and other worries that just won’t go away. However, we must not forget that Christ came to save us, and so whatever difficulties we face at this present time, we should not despair.
The heart of the Christmas story is that in Jesus ‘God has visited his people’. Let us make him welcome. I pray for all that the grace of the Christmas message will brighten our lives, renew our faith and strengthen our bonds of friendship.
May the Peace of Christ dwell in our hearts throughout 2013.