Last Sunday, 24th July, Fr Noel Mackay celebrated his 50th anniversary of his ordination at a mass and later a feast with what looked like 600-700 others. This is quite an achievement and says much for the quality of the man but also his great fortune in being able to find a path in life that he could maintain but also one that has been able to sustain him. Our College Salesian Rector, Fr John Prest talks about the need to live a vocational life. By that he means that we need to find something to devote our lives to, something that gives our lives shape and meaning, and something by which we can make the world a better place just by doing the ordinary things.
Married life is no walk in the park if it is to last a lifetime. Many good people have struggled and succeeded and other good people have struggled yet been less successful. Sometimes it may be a matter of good fortune and other times it may be a matter of deep compatibility and other times just sheer determination and effort.
I think the priesthood is probably no different.
Fr Noel has told me in the past of men he started out with and also of those who have stayed the journey with him. What has been different for him?
At the mass he gave us all a hint when he spoke of how blessed he felt to have been able to work for the people of Scoresby. Of having the privilege to baptise children, later marry them and then baptise their children. Of grieving with families when someone died, of rejoicing when a baby was born and of watching children become adults.
I think one of the secrets to Fr Noel’s ability to be such a good priest for so long has been the real love he has for his community and they for him.
At the mass it was clear that this was the case; the raw numbers told most of the story but then certain others spoke and confirmed this. For me one of the best compliments paid to him was the affirmation that for nearly 38 years he has been the pastor of Scoresby and been constant in his role of helping people know and love their God through his words and deeds but also through his personal example.
He has maintained his life of prayer and service; the heart of his vocation. He also spoke of his great faith in people and his capacity to truly trust those in positions of leadership at all levels. It is this quality that I have a great affection for given his support for me in my role as Principal of St Joseph’s College. Fr Noel was actually the chair of the selection panel back in 1998 when I was appointed so I have long been a beneficiary of his confidence and encouragement.
In an era when people’s ability to sustain such long term commitments is not always present to us as an example, we should rejoice in the fact that not only do we have such a person in Fr Noel but that St Joseph’s has similarly benefitted from his commitment for that same 37+ years.
Congratulations Fr Noel from the St Joseph’s College community on such a wonderful life achievement and we look forward to many more years in our relationship with you.
The priesthood had received some bad press over recent times so it is important to remember the work of good priests like Fr Noel Mackay and celebrate him.
Vincent J Feeney
Principal – St. Joseph’s College