Memories of a Past Pupil

By Fr. Pat O’Neill

Life passes us all by.
Man comes and goes.
Buildings crumble, statues fall.
Nations are destroyed.
Yet something remains, since time immemorial that keeps this world alive, and throbbing with the vibrations of its holocausts.

Somewhere amidst all this terrible confusion we all find a niche, a place in
this world. Luckily for me, I somehow or another managed to find myself in
there somewhere about the mid 60’s in a little small village school. It was there, I, like so many others, was moulded and shaped by the simplicity and grace of these early values. They have stayed with me throughout my entire life no matter what I do or where I go. It is on reminiscing that we can see how much of life has passed by. The rose coloured spectacles throw a romantic aspect that preserves only the best. Kilmurry N.S. was for me and my classroom friends a springboard to a wonderful future.

I was ready to face the many firsts that awaited me. The first of those
beginnings was facing boarding school. I had left home to face the world of
priests, teaching us great new subjects. Walking through the gates of St.
Flannans was a further awakening. As a boarder for four years I was immersed in
the way of life of the priests — enough to choose it as my own future.

I found myself in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth in the early seventies, ready
to take on academic subjects to help me face the world. Those years in Maynooth
were probably a major paradox for me — the best and maybe the most difficult of my life. Friendship and éamaraderie brought many great moments. My passion for BMX motorbikes and engines was intermingled with a quest to find the true meaning of being a priest. These friends and funny moments helped me surpass the doubts and questions deeper in my soul.

Ordination day came and went with much ado — another momentous occasion for my family and I. That day knitted together so much of what I had gone through in life to that time. All that I had achieved was primarily due to my parents. They
instilled in my family and I a certain dignity and grace to uphold no matter
where life would bring us. As a young priest about to begin my ministry,
probably one of the most difficult aspects was the absence of family.

My first parish and first car brought me to East Clare and Caher, Killanena.
The blue ford Cortina was never much good. Fortunately the people of Killanena
were undoubtedly the opposite. Their warmth and kindness will always remain
with me. There in Feakle and its environs I learned about the true spirit of
Irish rural life.

I was one of three sent by Bishop Harty to Zimbabwe to propagate the faith on
foreign soil. Zimbabwe was to be my home for over five years. The core of my
African experience was St. Killian’s mission.

The African people have so much to offer the world — yet we are faced with continuous
demonstration and media coverage about apartheid and segregation. We are all
born equal as human beings. It is from there we begin on the path of life. No
one knows what is at the top of the road. Our innate values, instilled in us
from the days of youth and innocence, carry us through life.

For these values and gifts I have to lay open gratitude to the educators and priests of my days in Kilmurry, and to the friends I made there (and to the family). There we got the ground rules for a life ahead. They are always with me as I continue to serve God and the people of my parish.