A mother and a son who were always side-by-side in life were side-by-side once more before the altar at St. Michael’s church.
James Monaghan, 13 and his mum Catherine O’Donnell, 39, perished as they queued in the post office adjoining the Applegreen Service Station in Creeslough last Friday.
A huge congregation of mourners was once again evident both inside and outside the church as the village whose heart has been broken came together once more in an attempt to try to heal each other in some way.
Celebrating his third funeral mass in just two days, Fr John Joe Duffy said James was just about to take off into his teenage years.
“He was just about to launch into life. His first experiences of beginning those teenage years were, after much debate, about getting to his first disco in Dodge.”
At school, James was a lovable pupil who was “full of divilment, full of life and full of joy.”
Staff and pupils of James’ school, Mulroy College were led by Principal Fiona Temple and Chief Executive of Donegal ETB Anne McHugh as they gathered at St. Michael’s to say a final farewell to an ever-happy student and friend and his loving mother.
Fr Duffy urged James’ classmates to carry his joy and life in them, to value their lives and to speak to their teachers for support.
“James’ teachers remember him as one of those children who were unforgettable his innocence was so very endearing, he was full of vitality he brought a smile to everyone’s face,” Fr Duffy said.
On a more light-hearted note, Fr Duffy recalled a memory of young James challenging Kimacrennan Parish Priest Fr Paddy Dunne to a wrestling match.
It was following the sad passing of Catherine and Charlie’s baby Paige that Dr Dunne visited the family’s home at the Race Course when James playfully greeted the priest with fists.
A lover of all things wrestling, young James was represented in the offertory gifts through sporting items, while Catherine’s love of fashion was symbolised in a watch and necklace.
“She was a glam lady,” Fr Duffy said of Catherine.
“She loved shopping, and she reckoned she was the only sensible one in her family because she was born in Ireland.”
While Catherine’s family hailed from Scotland, she remained a Creeslough woman at heart but also knew how much she was loved in her new homeplace of Kilmacrennan with her partner Charlie.
“Catherine was a loving mother, a loving partner, a loving daughter and one who was much loved,” Fr Duffy said.
As well as being a caring mother, she was also a lover of parties and of Garth Brooks, happily securing tickets for his Croke Park concerts after an all-night wait.
Catherine and James both had beautiful hearts and beautiful souls, Fr Duffy said. They loved family, he said, and they are now hand and hand together with Paige and the grandfathers gone ahead of them.
Sympathies were paid to Catherine and James’ loved ones during this time of “painful, heartbreaking and incomprehensible loss.” Joined in mourning were Catherine’s daughter Sinead, mother Margaret, partner Charlie Flood and James’ father Chris and all their extended family.
“There are no words that can give definition to that scale of grief and loss,” Fr Duffy said, as he reminded the family of the strength of community support shown towards them and all the victims’ families following Friday’s accident.
“Those visible good deeds we have all seen since Friday give us hope, lift us up and break into that terrible grief to give somewhat of a little consolation.
“The days of Friday and Saturday, one thing that struck so many people, and since those days is not the clatter of words being spoken at the scene, what struck us most is the silence, a mass silence of people gathered to support one another.
“Sometimes we do not need words, we need God, we need one another and we need prayer and community.
“Creeslough, maybe out of all this suffering and pain, has given a gift to the rest of the world, a new understanding of what it means to be a community.
“We are strongest when we rely on each other, support one another, and community spirit and prayer will conquer even the most difficult of hours.”
Fr Duffy recalled how members of the public rushed to the Applegreen station, ignoring the potential risks to themselves, to save others. He said the Gospel’s teaching of love for others was evident in moments such as a group of people holding up a wooden beam to ensure it would not fall on the nurse administering first aid.
A special word of thanks was issued today to the staff of the mortuary at Letterkenny Hospital who worked through the night to have loved ones back to their families quickly after the disaster
President Michael D Higgins was among the mourners at this afternoon’s mass, alongside aide-de-camp Colonel Stephen Howard, aide-de-camp to An Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Commandant Claire Mortimer.
Fr Duffy shared Creeslough’s gratitude to the President and said: “President you are most welcome, not welcome to our parish but welcome home, because I know we have been very much a part of your heart and in your thoughts in these days. Thank you for coming among us.”
Also present were Donegal Minister Charlie McConalogue representing the government, and many other public representatives, alongside representatives of An Garda Siochana and emergency and rescue services and healthcare staff from the Republic and Northern Ireland.