Archbishop Eamon Martin pays tribute to his ‘talented, humble’ mother at moving funeral
The leader of the Catholic church in Ireland delivered an emotional tribute to his mother at her funeral yesterday.
Archbishop Eamon Martin returned to his native city of Londonderry for Catherine Martin's funeral service.
He was joined at the altar of St Patrick's Church, Pennyburn, by leading religious figures.
They included Cardinal Sean Brady, the Papal Nuncio, Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown, Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian, his predecessor Bishop Philip Boyce, the Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor, Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry Ken Good and 40 priests.
The service focused on Mrs Martin's family, which Archbishop Martin said was the most important thing in her life.
He added: "My mother prayed daily for a happy death, and God gave her the comfort of the sacraments and having her children around her in her final hours.
"In recent days, like chicks coming back to snuggle under the wings of a mother hen, we all gathered from across the world.
"We were all finally home by midnight on Tuesday, so God called her at dawn on Wednesday morning, just as the sun was rising and the birds were singing."
Archbishop Martin also described his mother as "beautiful, bright, talented and good-humoured".
He began his homily by recognising the importance of a mother's love as one of the greatest gifts humanity can give, saying mothers are the first evangelisers, the chief educators and more.
"At this Requiem Mass, my family and I thank God for the vocation to love that our mother lived out so fully and unselfishly," he added.
"For her, this was no secondary vocation, no lesser calling. On the contrary, it was a challenging daily vocation to love.
"As a young woman, Catherine was beautiful, bright, talented and good-humoured.
"She was an avid reader and broadened her mind by gobbling up knowledge and understanding. She had the additional talent of being able to pass on that learning.
"She was a born teacher and could have achieved any goal she wanted, but instead she devoted all her skills towards her husband, JJ, and her family.
"At home she could be teacher, nurse, manager, motivator, catechist, spiritual adviser, chef, fashion designer, economist, law maker and enforcer, counsellor, therapist, social worker, cleaner, nurse and hair and beauty technician, all at the same time."
Archbishop Martin recalled how his parents shared the instillation of their Catholic faith in their children.
"That's not to mention the personal prayers my mother more than likely offered for some of us, for exams, for good health and happiness," he added.
"Any time we were leaving the house, she reminded us, 'Put Holy Water on you and say your prayers', and that didn't stop, even when you became an archbishop.
"She wanted each of us to achieve our very best, to discover our personal vocation, to stretch ourselves educationally and make whatever sacrifices were necessary to achieve our goals, and not to take things for granted or expect anything handed to you on a plate.
"She taught us to pray, to forgive and to be as generous as possible, to trust God and to love our neighbour.
"She did all this by modelling it herself, by leading by example, and that is why we are all so proud of her.
"I am not trying to present my mother as a saint, although, as you probably know, given half a chance most Derry sons would canonise their mammies.
"I remember her as a humble woman who never forgot her upbringing and the values she learned from her own parents - values that she wanted to pass on to us."
Following Requiem Mass, the funeral cortege travelled to Iskaheen in Co Donegal, where Mrs Martin came from, for interment at St Patrick's cemetery.