Michaela McAreavey family's grief 'remains deep and raw'
Michaela McAreavey would have been an aunt to her brother's new baby born yesterday, but instead mourners gathered to remember her tragic death in Mauritius.
The wound inflicted by the death of the murdered honeymooner "remains deep and raw", Mass-goers were told last night. Baby Liam Peter Harte was born just yesterday afternoon to her brother Michael and his wife Josephine.
Grieving widower John McAreavey returned to the tiny Co Tyrone church, where the devoted couple had wed on New Year's Eve 2010, to mark the first anniversary of his bride's tragic death.
On their way into the church and afterwards, family and friends stopped by Michaela's flower-adorned grave in the adjoining flood-lit cemetery.
Embedded in the wooden cross was a picture of a laughing bride.
Still clearly broken-hearted, the Down footballer and his family joined Michaela's bereft parents Mickey and Carmel and family in the front pews of St Malachy's Church, Ballymacilroy.
Last year's fairytale wedding celebrations turned to unimaginable tragedy 10 days later when the 27-year-old teacher and former Rose of Tralee contestant was found strangled in her hotel room, three days after arriving on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
Mr McAreavey's uncle, Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey, who married the couple and later officiated at Michaela's Requiem Mass, told Massgoers the enormity of what had happened had "slowly come home" to the family over the past year.
Quoting from the prophet Isaiah, he continued; "'The people that walked in darkness' -- that Isaiah speaks of -- describes the journey we have made over the past year. It has been a time of disbelief, shock, loneliness and grief. We struggled -- and continue to struggle -- to make sense of Michaela's untimely death," he said.
But he added that in spite of all that had happened and all its impact, they had been "accompanied by Jesus at every step".
Dr McAreavey thanked God for "the joy of knowing and loving Michaela and for the love in her life, her love for John, for her family and for many others.
He also expressed the family's appreciation for all the support and friendship they had received from so many people over the year.
"But, above all, we are grateful to God for the gift of Michaela herself, the gift she was and is. In the words of the psalmist, we thank God for 'the wonder of her being', for all she meant and means to those she loved and those who love her."
Strains of 'Voice of an Angel' from the rehearsing choir rang out into the chilly night as Mass-goers began pouring into the country church. Long before 8pm it was filled to capacity and the crowd swelled outside beneath a star-filled sky. The Harte and McAreavey families arrived just before 8pm and slipped quietly in a side entrance.
During the moving ceremony, Michaela's brother broke down as he prayed for baby Liam Peter Harte, born just yesterday afternoon to another brother, Michael and his wife Josephine.
Large crowds of family, friends and the wider GAA communities in counties Tyrone and Down, which played such a pivotal role in supporting the grieving families a year ago, converged quietly for the poignant memorial Mass.
A year may have passed, but the pain-etched faces of the bereaved told their own story of the deep loss still resonating through every corner of their lives.
Fr Michael Seery and Fr Gerry McAleer joined Dr McAreavey for the ceremony.
On Tuesday, students and staff at St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon held their own ceremony in memory of their popular Irish teacher.
Earlier this week, football manager Mickey Harte described his daughter as "a blessing from God".
Two men accused of killing Ms Harte are expected to go on trial in Mauritius in May. Avinash Treebhowon (29) and Sandip Moneea (41) have been formally charged with murder.