Ballymoe native Canon Kevin Earley was today laid to rest in Oran cemetery, following mass at St. Asicus’ Church in Frenchpark where a deeply personal and moving homily was given by Fr. John Joe Gannon.
“His going from us leaves a huge hole in our lives, in our world as priests and people in the diocese of Elphin” said Fr. Gannon, who referred to Canon Earley as “a giant on my shoulder” referring to their long-held friendship, forged in Summerhill College and St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth.
He spoke of being devastated by the “realisation that we are deprived of the friendship of someone that we loved so much” and referred to Fr. Earley as an “Anam Cara”, and ” a friend of the soul, one who guides and protects us, one who shows us the way”.
After taking up his first appointment as a curate in Milltown, Co. Galway, Fr Earley was appointed to the teaching staff of Summerhill College in September 1966 and remained there until 1988, becoming Principal in 1987. From Summerhill he went to St. Mary’s College, Boyle, where he was principal from 1988 to 1990. He returned to Sligo to complete his teaching career as Principal of Summerhill College, from 1990 to 1999, and was appointed a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter in 1992.
In 2000 Canon Earley was appointed parish priest of Frenchpark, served that community until July 2015. Approaching his 75th birthday, problems with his eyesight denied him the ability to drive and so he retired, first to Ballymoe and most recently to Drumderrig nursing home in Boyle before his death last Wednesday, June 10th.
Canon Earley’s incredible understanding of literary works and his ability to use that in his ministry was cited by Fr. Gannon in today’s homily, as he said: “Kevin was brilliant at quoting Shakespeare and other prominent poets, and using those quotes to help spread the message of God and to communicate with people. Long before computers were ever thought of, he had a computer mind. He had a wonderful recall of things that happened, even before he was born, reminding us of many things we had long since forgotten”.
Perhaps inspired by this, Fr. Gannon quoted from the poem ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson, to add to his farewell to his friend.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Bishop Kevin Doran also spoke about Canon Earley and his influence on people around him, adding: “he had a voice that came from his boots. Now this voice is silent, but it lives on in the lives of the people he touched”.
Members of Western Gaels GAA club formed a guard of honour outside the church in Frenchpark before the cortege moved to Oran, through Ballymoe, for his burial.