1st June 2015.
Forty five years ago yesterday 9 young men were ordained in St Peter’s College, Wexford. We had been preparing for that day for six years, and now surrounded by family and friends we were ready to stretch our wings.
On that sun kissed morning we had no idea what the future held, no idea where it would take us, no idea how it would surprise and test us.
In the 1961 edition of ‘ Petrus,’ the College magazine, there is a short article by an anonymous writer called ‘’ This is the Day.’’
It’s a reflection on Ordination Sunday. The writer speaks about getting up on that special morning, waiting to greet the family, the smell of freshly mown grass, donning the crisp new vestments, the evocative strains of the Veni Creator…..
He goes on to say ‘’ each anniversary we return in spirit, we take our place in the unending line of white robed figures that stretch across the years…….we see again the College Chapel……we remember our parents and our first faltering blessings.
We bid our last farewells and for the last time look on the sun lit harbour below the College and the town……..and then we are gone…….our souls beyond the breakwater of safety, across the bar and out on the tide.
Since then many tides have ebbed and flowed but time has not dimmed the memory of that day.’’
That tide took our class to different places…..Belfast……Scotland…… England…….Florida……. Ecuador……..Ferns……..and it took Morgan to the Gulf of Mexico.
It was a happy choice for Morgan, and for the people he served over the past 45 years. Over that time his life and ministry has been a grace and a blessing for the Diocese of Corpus Christi.
Morgan was wrapped up in his priesthood, it was everything to him. Even though he was dogged by health issues he always gave himself wholeheartedly to his ministry and his people.
He was hard working, committed and enthusiastic. He was happy in his skin, he loved being a priest.
He used to say ‘’ we have the best job in the world, all we have to do is be nice to people’’ and ‘’ nobody ever left the Church through kindness.’’
Some years ago I did a summer supply for him in the parish he founded in Larado, San Martin DePorres, and I saw first hand the work he did and the affection and respect the people there had for him.
The presence of Bishop Carmody is a further testament to the regard in which Msgr Morgan is held in the Diocese of Corpus Christi and I thank him for honouring Morgan and comforting his family by his presence here today.
Even though he lived in Texas for the past 45 years Morgan never lost touch with home. He loved coming back each summer, loved going to the matches, and as you know was due to come home on holidays last Thursday.
He also kept very much in touch with his family, and readily made himself available for family events and gatherings. He also stayed in touch with the St Peter’s family, and was always a familiar face at our Reunions, being present only a few weeks ago at our last gathering in New Orleans.
He had an infectious sense of humour and a great ability to retain and retell funny stories. I understand that his sister Catherine banned him from telling jokes at Mass during last Lent. So not wishing to draw her liturgical wrath upon me I will refrain from doing so on this occasion as well!
I will confine myself to saying that since his passing many wonderful tributes have been paid to him by parishioners and friends and they all mention the light-hearted, good humoured way he related to them.
Since he retired two years ago Morgan took up the pen. His first book was called ‘’ Jokes that make you Laugh Louder and Live Longer.’’ His second book was called ‘’ Hands ‘’ and describes the people, beginning with his family, who inspired him, and enriched his life in so many ways.
He asked me to write a few words as a foreword to ‘’ Hands ‘’ and this is part of what I wrote; as the era of Irish priests working in America is drawing to a close ‘ Hands ‘ provides an invaluable record of what inspired them to ‘’ go west ‘’ and of the huge part they have played in building up the young church in their adopted country.
As one who stayed on the home front in Ireland I have always admired Msgr Morgan and the thousands of Irish priests and religious who fanned out across the globe in the spirit of Abraham—‘ Leave your own country and family for the land I will show you.’ (Gen.12;1)
His third book is very appropriately called ‘ From Tomsollagh to Texas ‘ and is I believe almost ready to print. I think that was his business in Corpus Christi on the day he died.
George Bernard Shaw said ‘’ when I die I want to be all used up.’’ Those words very accurately describe the passing of Msgr Morgan Rowsome. When his home call came last week his life was indeed ‘’ all used up.’’
All used up living out his priesthood, all used up serving his people, all used up celebrating and appreciating life. A line out of an American poem called ‘The Summer’s Day’ says ‘’ doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon.’’
How true that is, everything, and everyone dies at last, and it’s always too soon.
On a human level this is a sad day for the Rowsome family. For the past sixty years Morgan has been a familiar and reassuring figure in their midst, part of the family circle, always available and supportive.
Those of us who knew him as a friend and colleague will share in that sadness, at moments such as this we realise in an unmistakable way that we have not here a lasting city, and that the years are never enough.
Our regret, and I suppose it’s a timeless one, is that our brother and friend has gone from us, and having enjoyed his presence and friendship, we now feel his absence.
An old funeral line captures our conflicting emotions.
You may cry that I have died, or smile that I have lived.
For those of us who knew Morgan practically all our lives this is not a difficult choice to make—-the smile wins hands down!
Eternal rest grant unto him O’Lord.
May he rest in Peace.
May his soul, and the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.