A congregation of over 2000 attended the 33rd Irish Kidney Association’s Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving at Corpus Christi Church, Homefarm Road, Dublin 9 on Saturday 6th October to honour organ donors and their families. At the ecumenical Service were courageous families of deceased organ donors and living donors and grateful transplant recipients of heart, lungs, liver, kidney, pancreas and bone marrow.
This annual event is organised by the Irish Kidney Association, and this year the charity organisation, celebrates its 40th anniversary. The inaugural Service, in 1986, had an attendance of 300 people and, since then, the numbers have increased annually and, in recent years, over 2000 people have attended from all over Ireland.
Also attending as part of the organ donation and transplant community were patient advocacy groups and leading members of the medical and nursing profession and transplant coordinators.
The Annual Service, which is now in its 33rd year, also marks the anniversary of the production of the ‘Book of Remembrance’. This ‘Roll of Honour’ has been an integral part of the Service since its inception inscribed with the names of organ and tissue donors. This symbolic Service is a mixture of sadness and joy for the families of organ donors and transplant recipients alike. For many donor families this unique Service has become an anniversary to both remember their loved ones, and for transplant recipients, the opportunity to honour and give thanks for the wonderful ‘gift of life’ they have received.
Broadcaster Claire Byrne, the ambassador for organ donor awareness 2018, recited a poem at the symbolic ecumenical Service. Claire was invited to commence the symbolic 'Ceremony of Light' by reading Helen Custer's 'A Candle' to remember those who have died and to commemorate the resurrection of life.
Transplant recipients and their families along with the families of deceased organ donors from throughout Offaly also took part in the Service.
Carrying the book of the gospel to the altar was Dermot Glynn, a kidney transplant recipient from Tullamore, Co Offaly. Also taking part in the service was another Tullamore native Noel Farrell who now lives in Dunboyne Co Meath. Noel donated his beloved wife Celia's organs four years ago on their 39th wedding anniversary. Celia a nurse had signed a donor card and Noel was aware of her wishes to donated as he had also signed it as her next-of-kin. Three patients underwent transplants as a result of Celia's organs being donated. A couple years later, the late Celia's cousin Michael Byrne from Ballyhaunis, CO Mayo underwent a kidney transplant which followed two and a half years of dialysis treatment.
Each member of the congregation was invited to carry a lit candle to the Altar, to the accompanying music of Dr Sharon Lyons, Director of the Pro Nuova Music Group who performs weekly in the Pro Cathedral and who was heavily involved in the '2018 World Meeting of Families'. Dr Lyons and the Pro Nuova Music Group also performed at the Service in 2016 and 2017.
Members of Transplant Team Ireland, who participated in the European Transplant & Dialysis Games in Sardinia and the British Transplant Games this summer also took part in the emotive ‘Service of Light’.
Members of the medical community were among the readers at the Service including Prof. Jim Egan, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation Ireland (ODTI), Brenda Poole, organ donor co-ordinator, ODTI, Mr. Tom Gallagher, Consultant Pancreas Transplant Surgeon, St. Vincent’s University Hospital and Clinical Lead of the National Pancreas Transplant Programme, Veronica Francis, Nurse Manager, Haemodialysis Services, Beaumont Hospital, along with donor families and transplant recipients.
Other symbolic moments in the Service included processions involving organ donor families together with organ transplant recipients bringing gifts to the Altar. Ivan Kinahan from Baldoyle accompanied his son Sam (age 4), who has been undergoing dialysis treatment since he was four months old, to the altar. Carrying the ‘Book of Remembrance’ to the Altar in gratitude to his donor was Transplant Team Ireland member Peter Heffernan from Skerries, Dublin who received a kidney transplant eight years ago.
This year’s Ecumenical Service was led by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who has participated in the Service many times. He was accompanied by Monsignor Martin O'Shea, Parish Priest of Corpus Christi Church, Archdeacon Gordon Linney, retired Archdeacon of the Church of Ireland, Dublin and Rector of St Paul's Glenageary, Reverend William Black, retired Rector of the Parish of Drumcondra, North Strand and St Barnabas and Reverend Alan Boal, Minister at the Abbey Presbyterian Church in North inner city Dublin. All Clergy have faithfully participated in this unique Service for many years.
The Irish Kidney Association Liturgy Committee, who were involved in the organisation and planning of the event, comprised Board members, National Honorary Officers and staff of the Irish Kidney Association: Valerie Brady, IKA Honorary National Secretary (Meath), Colin McKenzie, IKA Honorary Treasurer, (Dublin), Ellen Flanagan, Board Member (Kerry), Peggy Eustace, Board Member (Clare), Joan Gavan Board Member (Tipperary) , Pat May, Board Member (Carlow), Monica Finn, Board Member (Roscommon) and Lorraine Costello, IKA Patient Support Officer, (Dublin).
Organ donor families were invited to view their family’s entry in the ‘Book of Remembrance’ at Corpus Christi Church for a short time after the Service. Refreshments were served in the adjoining Community and Scout Halls.