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Fr Micheál Mac Gréil celebrates Golden Jubilee

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Fr Micheál Mac Gréil, SJ (seated centre) pictured beside his brother Fr Eoin, the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, with priests and Mass servers at Fr Micheál’s Golden Jubilee celebration Mass in St Partick’s Church Aughagower. Pic: Frank Dolan

Edwin McGreal

Large crowds attended the Golden Jubilee celebrations of renowned cleric, sociologist and campaigner Fr Micheál Mac Gréil, SJ at St Patrick’s Church, Aughagower on Saturday, August 3 last.
Leading the celebrations was Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary. Archbishop Neary noted that not alone was Fr Micheál 50 years a priest but he was 60 years a Jesuit and 40 years associated with the pilgrimage to Máiméan ‘and we might say a whole lifetime as a sociologist, a campaigner and an activist’.
Archbishop Neary paid tribute to Fr Micheál’s contribution to life in Ireland over the decades, praising his work as a sociologist in Maynooth, his championing of disadvantaged people and places and his espousing of the value of tolerance.
“Micheál always primarily was a priest. While he initiated and espoused various causes, he always did so as a priest whether it was prison reform, the Irish language or the Western Rail Corridor.
“To his eternal credit he always focused on the issue itself. He never, ever allowed personalities to distract from the central issue. That is something that all those who have come to know and respect him have admired,” said Archbishop Neary.
He praised his work at home in Westport, particularly in the parish of Aughagower, particularly in the wake of the death of Parish Priest Fr Jackie Conroy in 2017.
“The word retirement was never part of his vocabulary. He has been so helpful in his generous availability in Westport and particularly here in the parish of Aughagower.
“When Fr Jackie was ill and in the aftermath of his death Fr Micheál helped to keep the flag flying here in Aughagower,” he said.
“Today is a day of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving to God for Fr Micheál Mac Gréil for the way in which he has so courageously and so faithfully and energetically lived his priestly ministry. We thank God for the hope, the courage and the joy he has brought to so many people. We pray God’s blessing as he continues to be an ardent ambassador for Jesus Christ.”
Jokingly Fr Micheál said it was common at a funeral to call on a member of the family to say a few words and so called on Fr Charlie McDonnell, Adm Westport, to say the ‘eulogy’.
“Not just in this parish but throughout Mayo and the west of Ireland homes, not least McGreal homes, but many other homes, Micheál is deeply, deeply loved. Micheál, very simply, we love you,” Fr McDonnell said to warm applause.
“There might be times like every much loved uncle or grandfather we don’t want to listen to you and don’t listen to you,” he quipped. “But Micheál we deeply love you and deeply respect you. We respect who you are and what you are. We love you because you love us. You love this county, you love its people, you love your own family and you love God. You show that in your life.
“You are not afraid of a good fight. You are not afraid to engage with those who might not agree with you. We thank you on behalf of your own people. We thank you for the sincerity of your love for this county and the way over 88 years that you have tried to keep it alive.”
Afterwards, those gathered repaired to the local community centre for refreshments.