Posted: 24th April 2018

On Sunday April 15th a unique event took place in the Church of Ireland Cathedral dedicated to St Macartin in Enniskillen, to commemorate the beatification of Blessed John Sullivan SJ….

That opening line sums up the legacy of the Jesuit who has united both traditions on this island. It was a fitting place, and tribute to Blessed John who would have worshipped there as a boy when he attended Portora Royal School. The young John Sullivan would have listened to the Word and responded to it in his heart as he pondered the richness of the life afforded to him in the tranquil setting of his alma mater. The welcome afforded to Clongowes by the Dean of the Cathedral, Kenny Hall, himself a friend to this school, was sensed by those who made the journey from Milltown, Clane parish and Clongowes.

Archbishop Michael Jackson gave a most moving and rich sermon where he commented on the life of Blessed John and the traditions that he entered into (see his text below). However, it was his touching words on the nature of the link between Clongowes and Enniskillen that rang true to the ears of the visitors. Bishop Jackson, an Old Portoran himself, reflected on the impact of the annual visit in November for Remembrance Day. And remembrance runs deep in this city. Having been ripped apart by an IRA bomb the city struggled to recognise itself in the terror wrought by such evil.

Respectful presence

A community divided in the rubble of destruction and chaos struggled to meet each other and enter into meaningful dialogue. However, for Bishop Jackson and others in that place, the presence of boys and staff from Clongowes meant that people could talk with, and enter into a spirit of dialogue without fear or blame. The ‘respectful presence’ by Clongowes helped enable a community to come together without recrimination and try to begin to heal the wounds and scars left on the city streets.

Yet, words remain empty if they are not fleshed out in deeds. A concrete expression of this choral service of evensong was the presence of pupils from Enniskillen Royal Grammar School and the Clongowes Schola, who sang some of the hymns throughout the service. Their singing, along with the cathedral choir, enriched a service bringing both traditions on this island together. Archbishop Jackson stood with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic – two traditions united in the life of Blessed John Sullivan SJ.

Our thanks go to the people of Enniskillen for their warm welcome, gracious hospitality, true friendship and living faith. May both traditions be blessed by the life and works of John Sullivan SJ.

Extract from Dr Michael Jackson’s Sermon

‘The annual visit of the boys from Clongowes with their teachers to Enniskillen around the time of Remembrance Sunday is memorable and much appreciated to this day. Always, in respectful youth, they have been laying a wreath at The War Memorial, which had been the scene of what will ever be known as The Enniskillen Bomb detonated in 1987. Their presence and contribution were always eagerly awaited. In a situation of sadness and devastation, in a place of near-hopelessness and clouded-tragedy, it often can take other things from the outside to unlock the misery.

The annual visit of the boys from Clongowes with their teachers to Enniskillen around the time of Remembrance Sunday is memorable and much appreciated to this day. Always, in respectful youth, they have been laying a wreath at The War Memorial, which had been the scene of what will ever be known as The Enniskillen Bomb detonated in 1987. Their presence and contribution were always eagerly awaited. In a situation of sadness and devastation, in a place of near-hopelessness and clouded-tragedy, it often can take other things from the outside to unlock the misery.

For all the young people of Enniskillen, right across the schools of Enniskillen, the annual visit of members of Clongowes Wood College did just that. Meetings and seminars were arranged with community and civic authorities locally. They might simply not have been possible were the visitors not the catalyst of change and of comprehension, of open questioning and of optimism. Questions could be asked together that would not have had the same energy as they would have had were they asked separately, nor might people have had the nerve to do so at all.

Enniskillen and its generations of young people remain grateful to The School where John Sullivan lived for the greater part of the second half of his life – Clongowes Wood College.’

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