Our seventh graders were asked to put together a mass for today to remember our friend, Father Declan. Yesterday was the five-month anniversary of his passing; tomorrow would have been his 69th birthday. And after mass today we were dedicating a special lemon tree to him in our Garden of Blessings.
Let me just say…I really should have brought kleenex to mass this morning. My seventh graders were amazing! They wrote every part of the mass on their own, including parts we didn’t even ask them to write! At one point yesterday, some of the students were wandering all over campus interviewing other students and some of the teachers and staff, asking for their favorite memories of Father Declan. No one asked them to do that. They just did it!
I want to share with you what these wonderful writers created for today, beginning with the welcome:
Five months ago yesterday, we lost one of our best friends, Father Declan Dean. Father Declan showed us the way to love, and to remove the log from our own eye. Father Declan’s sixty-ninth birthday would have been tomorrow. To celebrate his life, we will be dedicating a lemon tree to him in the Garden of Blessings. The lemon tree represents his lifeline, lemonade, the only thing he could drink while he was ill. The lemonade was his key to happiness, even through his suffering; We suffered when he left us, but our wonderful memories of him were our lifeline. He taught us the gift of friendship and its importance, and so may we remember that wonderful friendship as we celebrate Father Declan’s life, here in God’s house. Please bow your heads in silence as we pray.
We thank you for your wonderful gift of friendship,
In good times and bad, help us to be good friends to each other, just as you are to us.
We thank you for helping us to see the true beauty of friendship through Fr. Declan.
Our hearts sing with praise to you for all the people that have shaped our lives.
On each of my friends, shed your light and love.
Keep them close to you just as they are to my heart.
Be my strength and guide me along the path to love.
Rather than do the regular reading for today, Father Donie asked the seventh grade to write something that focused on friendship and Father Declan:
Through thick and thin, friends are there for you. They provide a shoulder to cry on, and the best medicine, laughter. Father Declan was a cherished friend to all of us. But to have friends, you must try to make friends, just as Father Declan did. Like friendship is a blessing from God, so was Father Declan.
Friendship is essential to everyone’s life. Friends keep us grounded and humble, and they’ll help us through tough times. God worked through Father Declan to be a friend to all of us. Father Declan would always include us in the mass and make us feel closer to God.
He was not only a friend to us, but he taught us how to be good friends to each other. We could look up to him as a role model to teach us the values of friendship. Through Father Declan’s words, he inspired us to make true friends. Donna Roberts once said, “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
This is the perfect way to describe what friends are meant to be in God’s mind. Father Declan was there for us through thick and thin. He offered us a shoulder to cry on and laughter even in tough times. And he was always willing to sing back to us.
During our reflection time after communion, the following poem about Declan was read:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
We’re shocked we’ve made it without you.
Daisies are yellow,
Orchids are white,
Every time we saw you,
You brought out God’s light.
Father Declan, you shined brighter than the sun.
We will always remember all that you’ve done.
Your outgoing personality will live on forever,
You symbolize the rainbow,
Which always makes us feel better.
Red would be your notebook, in which you used to write.
Orange would be your flame that always shined so bright.
Yellow would be the beautiful stars that you made appear.
Green would represent Ireland, which you loved so dear.
Blue represents your eyes, like the ocean crashing on the sand.
Purple is for royalty, which put you in God’s hands.
We will always miss your loving touch.
Father Declan we love you so much.
Yup…definitely needed a kleenex for that one!
After mass, the entire school joined us out at the Garden for the dedication of Father Declan’s tree which included a reading of this letter to Father Declan written by my students:
Dear Father Declan: D-E-C-L-A-N,
Even though you’re not with us right now, you’ll always be in our hearts. We thank you for giving us all the memories and the gift of friendship that you shared with us. We will always remember your wonderful sense of humor, like your creative country drawings for the second grade class, and your sweet stories from your childhood. The way you related to us on a personal level and remember each of us is what made you so special to us. Your optimistic outlook made the day look brighter. We will never forget the way you listened and made us feel so important. Your strength inspired us to never give up. You lived life to the fullest and we thank you for teaching us that lesson. The red composition book that was always near you will hold a special place in our hearts, too. Your patience and calmness were some of the reasons we all looked up to you. You taught us how to be a true friend to each other, and we all truly thank you for that. You will always hold a special place in our hearts, and we know that God has worked through you to shape our lives. We love you!
The Christ the King School Family