Jul 8, 2013

Requiem for a Parent

Fergus Wallace 1937-2013
St. Comgall's Parish Church
Antrim, Northern Ireland

On behalf of the family of the late Fergus Wallace: my mother Mary, my sister Marysia and brother Fergus James and Linda, and the grandchildren, Thomas and Anna. To our extended family and relatives, to all who have been part of our lives, thank you for your support and kindness during the years, but especially during this past year.

We are also grateful for the spiritual support of the local clergy of Antrim and Ballycastle, and in particular to their respective parish priests Father Emmerson and Father Daly. Thank you.  It will be in Ballycastle where my father's body will be laid to rest, within the shadow of the church where he married our mother, fifty years ago.

Many of you have come here to pay your respects. For this we are grateful. Many of you have remarked how devoted Fergus Wallace was to his catholic and Christian faith. And rightly so. Now it is our turn.  Please pray for his soul that he might be counted among the saints and family of heaven. For that's what it's ultimatey all about, getting home safely. That is my prayer, that is our family prayer. And it is also the prayer of the Church and of the countless generations who have worshiped in this house of God. It is what we attempt to do now.

The Wallaces on my father's side, the McCavana's on his mother's, the sense of family history all around us here in St. Comgall's and his rootedness in Antrim, has always been important to him.  Generations of Wallace's and McCavana's have been baptized in this church, confessed their sins in this church, recieved their First Holy Communion in this Church, and have been buried from this church.

Both the Wallace's and the McCavana's have even had a hand in the building of St. Comgall's (there are even rumors, that reinforcing these walls, are some stones salvaged after the great fire of Antrim Castle in 1922- and some would even suggest back then, our family might have had a hand in that too!!)

In October of 1937, Thomas and Annie Wallace (we who were their grandchildren , affectionately called them mummy and daddy wallace) of Hillhead, Baloo, Antrim,  brought a young baby boy Fergus, the youngest of a very large family of many children (12 siblings),  to this very church. His little body was alive and full of breath and energy.  "Mummy and daddy Wallace" would have offered a prayer of thanksgiving for his birth, at this altar and no doubt, back then, lit a candel.

75 years later we have brought him back to his church, to bring to a conclusion what began at his baptism. It was here, at this baptismal font, that his soul was awakened. And even though his body is now quiet and asleep, that soul, even though now departed, is very much alive, not in our own hearts and memories, but, we pray, alive with God in heaven.

With this Funeral Mass and the burial afterwards in Ballycastle, today marks the gentle end of a generation of the Wallaces of Old Antrim. Fergus Wallace's life was marked by constant activity.  Always quick on his toes and restless with his hands, his career at Michelin in Ballymena, Enkalon, not far from here, the Lear Fan Project and later Shorts, is a testiment to his life marked out by industry.  Even during a number of years when he faced the prospect of no work at home, he sought out employment in Israel - he needed to work, his body was restless if it was not doing something.

During his retirement years, with an open-door policy, the kettle always on the boil for whoever passed by, Fergus Wallace constantly offered genuine hospitality and welcome - to friends, neighbors and strangers, a man who never refused to offer a hand of help to anyone who asked.

That was his nature - one of constant activity. But he was not a busy-buddy,  his redeeming virtue was that he always gave of himself, but not for himself, never for his own benefit. And this is evident,  first and foremost, in the carrying out and fulfillment of his marriage vows of fifty years, to be true in good times and bad, in sickness and health, onto death.

A question that might be asked is why was his death drawn out so long? That I do not know. But what I do believe, is that God, in his wisdom who rewards the humble, gave Fergus Wallace a precious gift of knowing when his end would come - allowing him to get his own household in order, to tie up any loose ends and fulfill in a most sacred and noble way his marriage vows and his commitment to his family.  So that, even in his illness that gave notice to the end of his earthly life, God allowed him to do just that,  to fulfill his sacred vows of matrimony, and to complete his commitment to keep his family together. He now deserves his rest.

But could there have been another way? Why did God ask him to carry such a heavy cross during this past year?  Maybe, to ensure that if he was to enter into heaven, then first, as difficult as it must have been for him at times, (for he was a man who fought sleep and fought silence), he had to first, and finally get used to letting go, surrendering himself ultimately to the peace and rest, the gentle quietness, that only God can give. That takes as much strength to do, as it does humility.

Today we will bury a strong and humble man of God, the last of a truly faithful and godly generation, in the sure and certain hope that he will make it home to be with God and the family of heaven forever. Rest in peace.

Father Cávana Wallace

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