The Month’s Mind mass for Private Seán Rooney has heard how his service and his love will be remembered through generations to come.
Mourners gathered in large numbers at All Saints Church in Newtowncunningham this morning to mark the one-month anniversary of the tragic death of young peacekeeper Pte Rooney in Lebanon.
Pte Rooney was serving with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) when he was killed during an ambush in south Lebanon on December 14th. He was 24 years old.
Today, Newtowncunningham Parish Priest Fr. Philip Kemmy acknowledged the “raw and hard” grief borne by Pte Rooney’s mother Natasha, his father Paul, his fiancée Holly McConnellogue and all his family.
Length of days is not what makes a life honourable, Fr Kemmy said, explaining that life and death has a ripple effect on everyone else.
Fr Kemmy compared Seán to the many great heroes of the church who died at a young age.
“The church has some of her great heroes, you would be surprised how short their lives were, and how impactful their lives were,” Fr Kemmy told the congregation.
St. Therese died at the age of 24, St Joan of Arc was killed at the age of 19, Pier Giorgio Frassati died at just 24 and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga died at the age of 23.
“We are all living from the benefits of their lives,” Fr Kemmy told Pte Rooney’s loved ones, “Quite short lives, but their life has a ripple effect that goes on.”
“And Sean’s life, far too short, has a ripple effect way beyond the years that we might have expected for him because that ripple effect of his life, so well lived and so lived full of love that will go on in your lives and even into other generations.”
The first reading of the mass was read by Sean’s heartbroken fiancee Holly.
Fr Kemmy paid a special tribute to the young Derry woman saying he could not help but feeling a deep sadness for her.
He said that only yesterday he attended the 60th wedding anniversary mass of a local couple and that all he could do was to think of Holly and how she will not celebrate such milestones with Sean.
He also paid tribute to Sean’s mum Natasha and her partner Paul whom he said he had witnessed preparing Sean’s grave for the Month’s Mind Mass earlier in the week.
Fr Kemmy told the grieving community that they are united.
“Natasha, Paul and the wider family, we are praying for you, we have been and will continue to do so,” he said.
“We can’t get inside your heart and live that grief for you, it’s all your own but you don’t have to bear it on your own.
“So many of us, we don’t know what to say to you, but we know what to say to God on your behalf and we will continue to do that.”
Among the Prayers of the Faithful was a special prayer for all those around the world who worked to make peace.
The congregation also included representatives of the Defence Forces, both serving and retired.
What could not be said in words today was expressed through music. Inishowen’s Gateway singers were commended for filling the church with powerful and uplifting song throughout today’s sorrowful mass.
Directly after today’s mass, members of Sean’s family and friends made their way to his graveside in the adjoining cemetery to spend personal time with the fallen soldier.
A second Month’s Mind mass for Pte Rooney will take place in Dundalk tomorrow, Sunday. Although born and raised in Dundalk, Sean spent a number of years living in Newtowncunningham and is fondly remembered by all who knew him in both towns.
He attended St Eunan’s College in Letterkenny where he completed his Leaving Certificate before joining the army following in the footsteps of his late father Cormac. Having joined the Irish Defence Forces in March 2019, Private Rooney’s home unit was the 27 Infantry Battalion, Aiken Barracks, Dundalk.