23 Jan 2022

Moving tribute paid to Offaly priest ahead of his retirement

Moving tribute paid to retiring Offaly priest

Pictured at the retirement party of Fr Pat Gilbert were Fr Pat (front) and l. to r. Ann Murphy, Fr Michael Reddan and Fr Ignatius McCormack.

The popular Birr priest Fr Pat Gilbert, who is due to retire in the next couple of weeks, has received a number of tributes, including a moving tribute from his friend and colleague of many years Fr Michael Reddan.

Fr Reddan begins his tribute with the quotation, ‘By their fruits you will know them', and points out that the excellent fruits of Fr Pat's years of service are there for all to see.

Fr Reddan points out that to evangelise is not just saying words, and to share one’s faith is to live out the conviction that we need actions as well as words.

Here is Fr Michael's tribute in full.

"The Word became Flesh and lived amongst us. For 33 years Fr Pat Gilbert lived a commitment to witness, his life a silent preaching. Long before we heard of ‘clustering of parishes’, Fr Pat was ministering to a great cluster of parishes at St Brendan’s Community School. Three generations know Fr Pat and all speak so highly of him, simply because Fr Pat was available, gave generously of his time, was a good listener and he always had the encouraging word. He knew people personally, early morning or late at night he was available.

"Pope Francis has a beautiful expression - ‘a true shepherd smells of the sheep’. And Fr Pat most certainly ‘smelled of the sheep’. Thus is the Gospel lived, not by pretty sermons or theatrical performance and then failing to live by them.
It would be interesting to ask, over the past 25 years what percentage of vocations emanated from St Brendan’s Community School?

"The influence of Fr Pat, in an education system very often directed towards a desire to have more, was how he encouraged his pupils to be more, to realise themselves through service and love . . . . the roots of a vocation. Lived example is the best witness.

"Fr Pat, I had the privilege of living and serving with you for 14 years in Birr. You embodied a true witness to the Christ who said: ‘I have come to serve not to be served.’ You were gentle and kind, compassionate and sound in your advice, and your great strength, confidentiality. You never imposed yourself or never yielded authority.

"The prophetic mission is a duty to God’s people. At the Community School, as in the ‘home’ we shared at John’s Mall, created for us by Ann Murphy, another true witness of loyal and faithful service, you conveyed an awareness of God’s mission in the work, a divine presence.

"We all have our own particular image of God. Mine is: ‘God of mercy and compassion, slow to anger and rich in mercy.’ Fr Pat, this is the image that I hold of you as a priest of Jesus Christ. Your priesthood gives life. This is a beautiful truth and let all of us who know you give thanks to God, to Him be the glory and praise. Amen.

Farewell Fr Pat, my true friend and companion."

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