The Vigil liturgy was led by Canon John McAuley, the Dean of the North Deanery, assisted by Mgr. Pat Osborne who had been helping in the parish. The choir of St. Agnes provided the music for the service. Many of Fr. Noel’s family had come over from Ireland for the funeral liturgies and Canon McAuley took the opportunity to thank them for the gift of Fr. Noel to the Archdiocese, for the 34 years of his service.
He also thanked the medical staff and carers who had made it possible for Fr. Noel to continue for so long. He reflected that there are many ways of speaking about death. One is to speak of our loss but the Gospel reading reminds us that Christ came to seek and to save the lost, and Jesus himself consoles us with the assurance that it is not the will of the Father that anyone should be lost.
The Funeral Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Tartaglia with Archbishop Emeritus Conti, Bishop Toal (who had been in seminary with Fr. Noel) and a large number of priests from the Archdiocese. Among the packed congregation (which had been gathering for at least an hour before the funeral began) there were representatives of other local churches and of the City Council, and students from John Paul Academy.Members of the St. Mungo Singers and the choir of St. Agnes, together with Dr. Noel Donnelly on harp, provided the music of the Liturgy. For many of the St.Mungo Singers, it was a particularly poignant service, as for many years they had come to St. Agnes at Fr. Noel’s invitation to sing at the annual All Souls Mass.
Archbishop Tartaglia began his homily by offering his condolences to Fr. Noel’s family. He recalled Fr. Noel’s priestly service in many parishes of the Archdiocese, his passion and aptitude for work in the media and communications- he had been Press Secretary for the late Cardinal Winning – and his determination and commitment to his parish. Despite his illness over the last 5 years, he had refused to give in and had made light of his ill-health. Right up to the end, he had been planning his return to St. Agnes’s and had kept in touch with the parish by phone.
At the end of the Mass, one of Fr. Noel’s brothers spoke briefly to express the family’s thanks to all who had helped him – parishioners, friends, medical staff. He finished his words by leading the family in the recitation of the Hail Mary in Irish, a touching reminder of Fr. Noel’s upbringing in Cork.Outside the church, the crowd waited to say farewell, as the police ensured the funeral cortege could leave without hindrance. For those who were not able to go to the cemetery, the parishioners had provided a lovely spread in the parish hall – Fr. Noel would have been proud of them.