More tears are shed at his Month’s Mind Mass

Another big turn-out for Father Matt

By Ciara Quinn

HOLY Trinity Church basked in warm evening sunshine on Monday as the community gathered for a Month’s Mind Mass for the People’s Priest, Father Matt Wallace.

The thick veil of mist and rain that had hung over the community four weeks ago at his funeral Mass was replaced with blue skies and sunshine that streamed through the Church’s ornate stained-glass windows.

Many who gathered for the service spoke of how they could not believe a month had passed since the 69-year-old community and Church stalwart died on Friday, June 7 at the parochial house.

Fr Matt’s family joined hundreds of parishioners packed into the Church as Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor, Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Farquhar, Fr Paul Byrne, Fr Patrick McCaffrey and Fr Thomas McGlynn concelebrated the Mass.

Fr McCaffrey began the service by telling the congregation what hymns we were going to sing and how Fr Matt would have been delighted to hear that. “He would’ve turned around and said, ‘Two verses of each – that’s all you’ve got!’”

Fr McCaffrey welcomed Fr Matt’s family who had travelled from County Wexford to the Mass and he paid tribute to “the powerful presence of someone we all loved very, very dearly.”

In his homily, St Colman’s Parish Priest Fr Byrne considered how, or what, was the best way to commemorate Fr Matt’s life?

“There has been talk of building a statue of him – which he would’ve hated,” said Fr Byrne. “Renaming a street after him or planting a tree here in the church garden? His reaction would have been very interesting to hear, to say the least.

“Fr Matt didn’t like ostentatious displays, he was more a simple and straightforward person. ‘Fuss’ was a four-letter word for him.

“The greatest reminder of Fr Matt is this church we are in. In this parish this church has a very special and deep significance.”

Fr Byrne spoke of how the old Holy Trinity Church had “served its purpose” before Fr Matt had been instrumental in the funding and construction of the new church.

“The old church was built in haste to provide a place of worship for the new Turf Lodge estate, it had no windows and was of a basic square design but the people of the community had a church to call their own.

“Parish priests arrived soon after and did what they could to enhance the area. And then in 1993 Fr Matt came and was given the leadership role in this community. When Fr Matt moved from St Peter’s it had been a shock to him, but if he was at the time overawed at the move  he certainly wasn’t overwhelmed.

“The new church was a fitting place of worship and it is vital to remember that it should be a centre for people to come into the presence of Christ through the sacraments.”

Of Fr Matt’s tragic death, Fr Byrne simply said: “He left us too soon and too suddenly and left many of us reeling.”

He went on: “Suicide is not a solution, if any of us are ill most of us will go to see our GP. I pray for the day when it will be the same for people with mental health problems. Do not for one moment underestimate the grief families feel for loved ones who have taken their own lives. The family carry the wounds of that until the day of their own deaths. Never lose sight of the fact we belong in this world until God calls us from it. Fr Matt answered Christ’s call and worked simply and quietly for the people of West Belfast. He was a disciple of Jesus Christ and if we are prepared to do the same, he would heartily approve and that in itself would be the best way to commemorate him.”

As Holy Trinity Guides brought the offertory gifts to the altar, parishioners wept openly as Fr McCaffrey led the congregation in a rendition of Céad Míle Fáilte Romhat, a Íosa.

Before the Mass ended, Bishop Noel Treanor spoke of how he had been struck by the phrase Fr Matt’s sister-in-law Philomena had said before the service started: “It’s been a month now – but it feels like an eternity.”

Bishop Treanor continued: “The single greatest tribute to Fr Matt was the display of dignity and devotion we all witnessed here in this church after his death with the people that came to pay their respects. I want to thank Fr Matt’s family for giving us the extraordinary gift of Fr Matt Wallace.”

Speaking outside Holy Trinity after the service, West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said: “It was great to be in attendance with so many many people at Holy Trinity to celebrate the life of Fr Matt. The chapel was packed with people who Fr Matt had a positive impact on. It was great to meet and speak to Fr Matt’s family who travelled from Wexford and friends on the night. It was clear to see from the amount of people in attendance that he was loved greatly by the community in Turf Lodge and beyond.

“Fr Matt has left a legacy in the area and the community respect that. He worked tirelessly to better the quality of people’s lives on a daily basis and challenged those with responsibility to make a difference.

“He is greatly missed by all who knew him and his memory will live on for a long time in Turf Lodge and in the wider west Belfast community.”

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