FRIEND OF THE YOUNG Fr Michael Gormally with his First Communion class 2008 from St Joseph’s NS, at his farewell function in the Valkenburg Hotel.
Fond farewell for Fr Michael
AS Fr Michael Gormally prepares for his move to Achill this week, he does so with the applause and words of affirmation of the people to whom he ministered for the last five years ringing in his ears.
On Friday night last, hundreds of members of the Ballinrobe community – and people from further afield – packed into the Valkenburg Hotel for a special parish farewell to the popular curate who first arrived in the town 12 years ago to take up the role of chaplain of the local community school. After seven years in that position, during which time he also served as a curate in the parish of Finney, he was appointed curate in the Ballinrobe parish, taking up residence alongside long-time parish priest, Monsignor Tommy Shannon. He also served as chaplain to the Order of Malta unit in the town.
This Friday, his involvement with the people and parish of Ballinrobe will end, as he moves to Achill to serve as parish priest there. But, as the colourful curate remarked to his flock on Friday night, he may be going but he will never forget Ballinrobe.
“I thought I would never get over Westport [his first parish] when I left, but I have to say that Ballinrobe will always have a special place in my heart. The warmth, generosity and encouragement I received from the people here I never experienced anywhere else,” he said.
Tracing his relationship with the people of Ballinrobe, starting in 1996, he spoke of his special fondness for the young people with whom he came in contact. “I had seven wonderful years with the youth in the community school. They made me youthful and joyful, and vexed me at times, but I enjoyed every moment with them and thank them.”
Paying tribute to Fr Michael, Mons Shannon said he had been a wonderful colleague and a huge personal support. “When he arrived here five years ago, Michael told me that now I was in my seventies it was time I started to take things easier. He took over the Mass servers, the sale of work and the First Communicants and for all of that I am so grateful. The last five years have been so happy and pleasant with him, and he was all the time taking care of me and always anxious for me to take weekends off. For that, and for so much more, I am very grateful to Michael,” he said.
“I’ve been parish priest in Ballinrobe for 24 years and I’ve been lucky to have colleagues with a wonderful spread of gifts. Michael is the baby and the last of my colleagues and helpers,” he concluded.
Anthony McCormack, who was a most able master of ceremonies for the event, paid tribute to the departing curate on behalf of the community. “In your time with us, we have enjoyed enormously your support for all ages and for all walks of life. In particular, we want to say thank you for your support to the elderly and infirm and to all of those people who were unwell and whom you visited regularly on the first Fridays.
“We want to thank you for your support to the voluntary life of this community and in particular we want to thank you for your support and encouragement to the young people of our parish. You have created a bond of friendship with those young people that will never be forgotten,” he said.
A number of presentations were made to Fr Michael to mark his departure from the parish, including a painting by Douglas Alexander, which had been in the Ballinrobe parish for many years, and which was presented by Mons Shannon. Anthony McCormack presented him with an inscribed watch, while a Mayo jersey was presented to the Milltown native by Siobhán Costello. Tony Walkin made a presentation on behalf of Ballinrobe GAA Club, while Christy O’Loughlin presented a token of thanks and appreciation from Ballinrobe Agricultural Show.
Changing times in Ballinrobe parish
THESE are times of great change in the life of the Ballinrobe community. Having said goodbye to the Mercy Sisters after 150 years at the end of May, the parish will bid farewell to Fr Michael Gormally, CC, this Friday as he leaves to take up his new role as parish priest of Achill.
Monsignor Tommy Shannon, who was due to officially retire on that day also, will remain on for a further two weeks, before embarking on a visit to his sister in Namibia. After his travels, he will return to Ballinrobe, where he has been parish priest since 1984, to live in retirement.
Canon Conal Eustace, outgoing President of St Jarlath’s College, Tuam, who was appointed Vicar Forane of the Ballinrobe Deanery when the diocesan changes were announced last month, will take over as parish priest in Ballinrobe at the end of August. In the meantime, following Mons Shannon’s departure, Fr Pat Farragher, who is currently attached to the Family Centre in Castlebar, will serve in the town for a month.
Fr Gormally will have a busy time in Achill, with nine churches in the area, and he will also be placed on a rota for Clare Island and Inishturk. Fr Gormally is no stranger to Mayo parishes, having previously served in Westport for six years from 1988 to 1994 and on Clare Island from 1994 to 1996, before he went to Finney.