It was always on the cards that the celebration of Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick’s Golden Jubilee would not conform to the usual pattern – no formal invitations with polite requests for replies, rather a phone call or email or an invitation from the sanctuary at Mass, and a request to “let us know if you are coming, for catering purposes”. No seating plan for the meal with a top table – it was a buffet and take a seat where you wished. And no formal speeches! That was the way Mgr. Gerry wanted it, and with the help of his friends in the St. Mungo Singers, arranged it.
Admittedly there were one or two panics, given the arrangements only really got underway just over a month before. Keeping track of numbers proved exciting – too many priests for the sanctuary? – just put extra chairs along the front of the church – too many people for the church seating – just put some more seats along the side and at the back – no problem! The hall booked at the Tradeston Ex-Servicemen’s club allowed for up to 200 people but it quickly became obvious that this would not be enough – again no problem! We just arranged use of another room (or two).
In the end over 300 people squeezed into the church and the club. As well as 29 priests (from 3 dioceses) and 2 Bishops (Archbishop Emeritus Conti and Bishop Toal), family members, friends and St. Mungo Singers, there were musicians and ecumenical colleagues (including from both the local churches and from Glasgow Churches Together and ACTS). In typical fashion, Mgr. Gerry invited several other priests who were also Golden Jubilarians to join in his celebration – Frs. Willie Slavin and Noel Colford who were in his “class of 1963-64” in Rome and Fr. Hugh O’Donnell of Mill Hill.
A group of instrumentalists played and the St. Mungo Singers sang, as the people gathered for the Mass. The music of the Mass itself, as you would expect, was a wonderful and joyful mix, ranging from the plainsong Kyrie, through the finale of the Purcell Te Deum and Mozart’s Ave Verum, to contemporary liturgical pieces by James Quinn, Stephen Smyth, Catherine Walker, Noel Donnelly and David Harris, as well as some of Mgr. Gerry’s own music. The Gospel was proclaimed in song by Deacon Kevin Kelly, and all the concelebrating priests joined in the singing of the Eucharistic Prayer. A touching moment was the playing by Carissa Bovill of a harp piece she had composed for Mgr. Gerry’s Jubilee.
The homily was given by Mgr. James McNeil of St. Columba’s Cathedral, Oban. He reflected on the Gospel theme of “ask and you shall receive”. What should we ask for? The challenging thing would be to ask for what God wants to give us. What had God given us in the priesthood of Mgr. Gerry? Commitment, perseverance, compassion – and, through his music, help in praying and praising the Lord.
Before the final blessing, David Reid, of St. Leo’s Parish Pastoral Council, spoke briefly to thank everyone for joining the parish community on this special day. At the end, it was a brief walk across the road to the Tradeston club, where the only formalities, if they could be called such, were a welcome to the meal (with an explanation of where the food was to be found!) and a presentation of a cheque to Mgr. Gerry from the St. Mungo Singers – there was some question about the wisdom of giving him a cheque as he is renowned for spending anything he is given on anyone but himself!
The centre piece of conversation though was the wonderful cake with three layers – one with the words “Locus Iste” on it, one with the first few bars of music from that motet, and the top one with a fish rising from it. The fish represented Mgr. Gerry’s favourite way of relaxing – other than doing music, that is. “Locus Iste”? – well, ask any member of the St. Mungo Singers about this one. Mgr. Gerry has had them regaling people with this in places as disparate as the Spanish Steps and the Metro in Rome, in Malta, Salamanca and the Holy Land, on buses, boats, planes and trains. It has been a useful way of checking where choir members are on public transport!
Mgr. Gerry, clearly taken aback by the numbers present and the presentation, spoke briefly to express his thanks and his surprise. He was also very taken with a slide presentation of photos which Marie and Suzanne of the choir had put together and which was now projected onto the wall of the hall- everything from photos of his ordination day to very recent parish events.
Everyone has a great night and the celebrations didn’t finish there. On the following Sunday, the parish held a Cake and Coffee/Tea event in the parish hall and presented him with another cheque. There was enough cake(s) to feed the five thousand, and parish, choirs, school contacts, family and friends from other churches were drafted in to ensure none was wasted, thus spreading the joy and celebration.
Ad multos annos, Mgr. Gerry.