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‘When a loved-one leaves’

Fr Leonard Moloney SJ, Provincial of the Irish Jesuits and Chair of National College of Ireland’s Governing Body, led an all-faith memorial service on Tuesday 15 December 2020. The online service was to remember people associated with NCI staff and students, who passed away during 2020.

The NCI President Gina Quinn spoke of the three NCI students who died during 2020 and, in all, the names of 31 deceased, submitted by NCI staff and students, were displayed on-screen.

Fr Leonard Moloney shared two reflections during the service. He chose the appearance of Jesus to Mary of Magdala (John 20:11-18) for his scripture passage. He commented that while it may seem strange to choose a resurrection passage for a service in Advent, he was reminded of the words of the late Fr Daniel O’Leary, who wrote that “Advent is not about waiting for the baby Jesus as though nobody had told us he had already arrived”.

Fr Moloney further explained his choice of the story of a resurrection appearance for this service of remembrance because “by being present in Advent, we’re looking forward to meeting with the risen Lord. This reading is about a meeting between the risen Lord and Mary of Magdala, one of the most profound moments in human history”.

In her opening remarks, Ms Quinn noted that the “NCI is a close community. Our intent is to deliver to our mission to change lives through education and to do that in a way that supports everybody within our community. That has never been so important as during 2020, this year that will always be known as the year of the global pandemic.”

Gina Quin noted that normally a memorial service like this would be held in NCI’s IFSC campus, followed by an opportunity for attendees to chat over tea or coffee afterwards, but that was not possible this year due to Covid-19 restrictions. The memorial service was instead made available through the NCI website and was broadcast on the College’s YouTube channel, (click to view) and has already attracted hundreds of views.

Readings by NCI students and staff during the memorial service included extracts from the works of John O’Donohue (‘For grief’), Mary Oliver (‘When death comes’), Bhagavad Gita (‘You are not the body’), and Fr Antonin Sertillanges OP (‘When a loved one leaves’).

These readings were interspersed by images from photographs taken by NCI students. A booklet was prepared, containing all of the readings, so that people watching online could follow along with the memorial service.

The memorial service was organised by NCI lecturer Desmond Gibney, who is presently completing a Masters in Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work in DCU. Desmond Gibney commented he was especially struck by the words of Fr Sertillanges: “The more loved ones that have left home, the more heavenly ties for those left behind”.

NCI was founded by the Irish Jesuits in 1951 and was originally known as the Catholic Workers College and opened its doors to its first students in February 1951 in Sandford Lodge, Sandford Road Ranelagh. The College relocated to a purpose-built campus in the IFSC in 2002 and has approximately 5,000 students. The Irish Province of the Jesuits is represented on NCI’s Governing Body by Kevin O’Higgins SJ and Professor Patrick Clancy.