The funeral mass of 15 year old Shannon Gallagher has been told that suicide is never a solution.
This is the full text of Fr John Joe Duffy's homily at the Funeral Mass this morning -
As we gather this morning to celebrate this funeral Mass for Shannon,
we are reminded of the stable of Bethlehem by the presence of the crib
in this church. The stable of Bethlehem into which was born a
precious, mush loved, venerable and fragile child. A child first
welcomed by poor shepherds who lived on the margins of Bethlehem and
of society. They received from Joseph and Mary, a warm welcome into
the space of that tenderness and love, into that home of hospitality.
We are invited to enter into that space this morning, and we are
invited to receive from the Christ Child that same hope and peace,
that the Shepherds first received on that night in the hills of
Bethlehem. Jesus wants us this morning to know his presence in our
lives, his tender love, care and compassion.
When we think of Shannon, we also think of the river Shannon, a name
that they both share. Rivers by their nature are naturally beautiful,
magical, mystic, peaceful, tranquil and eternally flowing. These are
traits that we all yearn for in life, each one of us yearn for them.
At times for whatever reason, very often it is only God alone that
knows why we somehow fail to realise these traits in our lives and
therefore are left without that Hope, Joy and Peace, which Jesus
desires for us in each one of our lives. It is for these qualities and
traits that I pray we all may experience in our lives and in our
coming to terms with Shannons passing from this life to life eternal
None of us wanted and none of us expected to find ourselves back in
this church today to be once again praying this Mass for a 15 year old
child Shannon so soon after the death of 13 year old sister Erin. It
was only a few weeks ago that Shannon read so well at the Months Mind
Mass for her sister.
We are numb and in such a state of shock and unrealness, total
disbelief that for the second time within 2 months that Lorraine and
the Gallagher family are having to face the desperate pain and deep
anguish of losing such a beautiful child in the most tragic of
circumstances. This community are deeply sorry for your heartache and
we are at a loss. So many have asked the question over the last few
days, how could such a tragedy happen again within 2 months. This
community has being praying for you and dearly wish this was not
happening for you again. They wish to support you and to reach out to
you and your family.
I said at Erins funeral Mass, that no mother in this country should
ever have to experience the acute pain and suffering that you were
going through in those days. That was also your wish Lorraine. But it
is most regrettable that you find yourself once again and so soon in
this most tragic situation this morning. That must be so unbearable
for you and our hearts go out to you. I don't not know of any words
that will help you. Jesus desires as do all of uswish to console you
and give you peace and hope. It is Jesus words that i give you this
morning that Jesus has prepared a place in that same room for Shannon
with Erin in Heaven for all eternity. Shannon loved you and her desire
at Erins wake was for you and her little brother to be ok. That is
what she would want for you this morning.
Shannon was a much loved girl. She was very precious to you her family
and friends. She had a particularly close bond to her sister Erin.
They spent so much time together and were such close sisters. Shannon
would help Erin with so many things including homework. Erins death
naturally caused her great sadness and pain.
Shannon was a welled liked and highly thought of girl in this
community. Her friends have spoke of her so affectionately and in such
glowing terms to me. These last few days have being difficult for you.
In school, Shannon focused herself completely where she was achieving
very well. Recently she achieved an excellent result in her Irish
exam. She was very much supported and cared for by her teachers.
Shannon was an accomplished sportsperson.Shannon won several sports
awards at her school and she won the overall sports award in her first
year at school. She as an excellent Irish dancer also. It was then
onto football where she showed great ability on the field in both
soccer and Gaelic, being a member of the county girls underage team.
She gave up ruby because she thought it was too hard she to take up
what she considered the easier option of boxing. Boxing was a passion
for her and she won titles both county and ulster titles. She was a
dedicated person to her beloved Twin Towns boxing club and was very
involved and so enjoyed being part of the club.
Shannon acquired such a huge circle of friends many of them through
sporting involvement and achievement. This is the Shannon that will
fondly be remembered by so many of her friends and school mates who
thought so much of her.
Loss of a friend at any stage of life is very difficult but when one
is so young that loss is all the more difficult and sad. This has
being a trying time for you.The pain you are experiencing now will be
different for each one of you. You may ask questions could you have
helped her in a different way. The answer is simply No. You did
everything you could possibly do for Shannon. You comforted her in so
While in life you all face many pressures today and sometimes you may
feel that no one understands you or cares about you. If you feel that
you have little hope of things improving for you, or that you have
thought of or self harmed in any way or thought about suicide . Then
please please TALK TO SOMEONE. I do not know of anyone who can read
our minds: parents, teachers and friends may think they know what is
going on, but they can't really know unless you tell them. Talking
about something will not make it happen. It will help for a problem
shared is a problem halved.
Do not bottle your feelings up. Talking about them will not increase
the hurt but a burden shared becomes lighter. In fact, this advice
applies to everyone, no matter what age you are - share your feelings
and do not let them eat you alive. There are people who care and
people who can help. Shannon' s death is a great shock for you. As i
said before, you may feel overwhelmed by your feelings, which will
possibly be one or many. On the other hand, you may not have a strong
reaction to what has happened. No two of us feel the same. It is okay
to ask questions, such as, Why? Be patient with yourselves and allow
yourselves to grieve. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings with
parents, teachers, to your doctor, to the people in your clubs, to
those professionals helping out in your schools at this time, to me or
one your own priests. I am asking you as young people to continue to
care for one another, to be kind to one another, to be there for one
another -- support each other. Call the different organisations: HSE
Helpline , Now Doc, or Childline, Samaritans,
Console.ie, the gardaí, there are cards in the Church entrances for
Donegal Links and the church notice boards have helpline Nos.
I am saying to everyone here today that suicide is an unnecessary
solution to the problems and trials of life. These problems that we
face are only temporary and they do ease and pass away with help and
in time. Suicide takes place around one grief to add even further
grief for family and friends and whole communities. Suicide is never a
To parents, teachers and those who work with young people in our
community, I know that you are available and will continue to be
AVAILABLE TO TALK WITH AND LISTEN TO YOUR CHILDREN as you always are.
Remember though that it is not always possible to know the deeply
hidden problems carried by some of our young people. You want what is
best for them and you do your very best for them. I also ask parents
to familiarise yourselves with and use the help that is available and
the services that are in our community.
My re collection of 6 weeks ago when we were last gathered here at
Erins funeral was that I asked that this day should never dawn for
another mother in this country ever again.That day 6 weeks ago on the
31st Oct, should have being a dawn for change in our country, a new
beginning, when agencies, support groups, professionals and those
charged with the care of children should have realised that the course
and the path that they were on, in responding too and dealing with
these issues was neither effective or responsive enough to deal
adequately enough with this ongoing problem throughout Irish society.
But sadly Society which failed a 13 year old child Erin Gallager on
the 27th October 2012, within 2 moths has once again in the same
family, for the second time failed her 15 year old sister Shannon
Gallagher. Society has failed two children, two sisters within 2
months and that is a most damning indictment for any society
evidenced by the second white coffin that is before this Altar within
2 short months, 45 days ago to be exact.
My heart is devastated, my heart is shattered at how poorly we
understand the issues concerning youth mental health and mental health
issues in the general population in Ireland. And the terrible
consequences we see occurring and re occurring on a regular basis
though out the country.
The systems and methodologies in place and used by the HSE and other
agencies and professionals dealing with these cases simply does not
work. We are failing to protect the most fragile and most vulnerable
children in our society.
We are failing to to bring in the children, young people and most
vulnerable adults on the margins of our society to the safety of the
centre where they ought to find support, comfort, and safety.
The systems and approach need to be radically improved, to be
completely overhauled and to be more responsive so that they have a
relevance and are fit for purpose in the modern world.
Hiding behind professionalism and qualifications or the inertia of
being able to change rules, legislation or regulations is simply not
acceptable, when so many lives getting younger have being tragically
and needlessly lost.
I am now calling upon someone in Government to take a hands on role
and to do what it takes. Whatever that is to combat what is the the
most serious problem affecting our country and so many of our families
and communities with such devastating consequences.
The time for talking is over. For the sake of all people on the
margins or in similar circumstances, for the love of God let some one
person in Government take leadership and reform what is clearly a
Shannons family wish to thank the Twin Towns Boxing Club for their
tremendous support of Shannon. Lorriane is most greatfull to each and
everyone of you for the care and loving support you gave to Shannon. I
want to also pay tribute to the club, to all sporting organisations,
to all other groups and organisations, to the teachers and staff of
the Finn Valley College, St. Columbas, St Marys and Dooish schools for
the excellent support and care that you give to all the children and
young people of this community. You are a credit and inspiration. You
are the hope for our youth through involvement in various activities
and events and furthering their education. I encourage you and laud
you to continue with the excellent work you do. Every hour you spend
in helping children and young people is the most worthwhile work you
will ever do. Thank you. In a special way I want to thank the Boxing
club and the staff of the Finn Valley college the excellent care and
support you showed to Shannon. I want to thanks all who cared for her
in any way.
The star over Bethlehem shone brightly showing that Jesus who came to
bring us Peace, Hope and Joy is present to everyone of us. Shannon and
Erin are with Jesus in Heaven experiencing the fullness of that Joy
and Peace. Jesus is taking care of them.
Shannon and Erin would wish that Hope and Peace for all of you here
today. They would tell you that life is precious and it is worth
living it. They would want you experience Hope, Peace and Joy in your
own lives as you go about your daily lives. Maybe you should all take
time to get involved in some leisure activity, clubs or groups or
organisations, planet youth and so on. Shannon got great satisfaction
out of sport. Sport, drama, music help us to have active and healthy
lives. Get involved with others in clubs and organisations to build up
Finally I ask you to give some space in your lives for Jesus in your
lives. Pray to him, talk to him as you would to me or anyone else.
Listen to him in the stillness and quiet. God loves everyone of us
with an immense love. We are precious to him. He came among us as a
vulnerable and fragile baby born on the margins of Bethlehem to show
us that he understands us in our fragility and brokenness, that he
wants to reach out to us and help us overcome the troubles that we
face in our lives. And yes we can overcome the things that trouble us
and working together as a people, we will overcome these things. At
this time of Advent, I ask you to open to hearts to Jesus so that he
may dwell in them and flood them with his love ,joy, peace and hope.
Fill your minds with noble and positive thoughts, use your voices to
speak words of love and peace, so that others may be filled with joy
and Hope. Use your hands to reach out to others with the love of Jesus
to make this world a better place. Unite your pain with Jesus to bring
many blessings into your own life and that of the world that we live