Mass of Thanksgiving for Mr Mooney


Mr Mooney, pictured with his wife, Mrs Anne Mooney.  Mr and Mrs Mooney are pictured with V Rev Father Seán Larkin, Vice-Chair of Governors, Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh, Mr Jarlath Burns, Vice-principal, Rev Father Rory Coyle, Master of Ceremonies and V Rev Father Dermot Maloney, Chaplain.

Students in Years 8 to 12 gathered in the Church of the Good Shepherd, Cloughreagh to participate in a special liturgy to mark the retirement of Mr Oliver Mooney as Principal of St Paul’s High School.

Chief concelebrant at the special Mass was Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal Seán Brady, who preached the homily and paid tribute to Mr Mooney’s leadership of St Paul’s, describing the school as ‘a jewel of the Archdiocese of Armagh’.

Student participation and involvement in the liturgy was a central part of the Mass.  Students from Class 08/24 contributed with a dramatic interpretation of the gospel, and the school choirs brought a very special and reverent atmosphere to the Eucharist.

Representing the student body, Head Boy, Peter Hughes, and Head Girl, Aoife Malone, presented Mr Mooney with the gift of a chalice in recognition of the central place the Eucharist has in his life, and a gift of a season ticket to all events which will be held in Croke Park in 2014, acknowledging Mr Mooney’s love of gaelic games.  Head Girl, Aoife Malone, delivered a moving tribute to Mr Mooney, in which she thanked him for his dedication to St Paul’s, and his support of the student body.


Cardinal Brady’s homily delivered at the special Mass of Thanksgiving will be published here soon.

Head Girl, Aoife Malone’s speech is published below.

Your eminence Cardinal Brady, Reverend Fathers, Mr Mooney, chairman of the board of governors, teachers, and fellow students. It is a great honour, a fantastic privilege but a very sad occasion, on which I have been asked to speak to you today. This is to officially bid farewell to our inspiration, Mr Oliver Mooney. Mr Mooney has been in our school from 2002 and over those 11 years he has turned the school into the talk of Northern Ireland for its visionary and diverse education, its pastoral care and also for its musical and sporting excellence.

We are proud to belong to this school, we are proud to belong to a school that had you as principal. You have served the school well; you were always there for us when we needed to talk to you. There are many, many examples of when students just needed that someone to talk to and you were there for them. Mr Mooney we will remember you, for remembering us. You remembered the names of so many students that attended St Paul’s and that is remarkable. You always put us first, we were your number one priority. Every decision you made in this school was made with us at the forefront of your mind. We noticed this; things like this don’t slip the minds of the students of this school, and as a result of this, we will never forget you. You have left an indelible mark on us, in our hearts, in our minds and in our souls. And all the students that have been privileged to have passed through this school over the past 11 years are better individuals, better educated people and feel better about themselves because of you and your influence.

I surely speak on behalf of everybody in this congregation to say that while today is a sad day, it should also be a happy day because you can leave St. Paul’s safe in the knowledge that you leave it a much better place than you found it. You set out your vision at the beginning of your time, to turn it into a school that would be very quickly buzzing, that would be renowned for its prowess as a place of sporting and musical excellence; but most of all you made it very clear from the start that your expectations of us were: sky high. Your vision was to create a school that provided quality education for all, and you have done this because when we joined St. Paul’s we were not asked what we scored in a transfer test nor were we required to pass an entrance exam. You set us a more important task than that. You wanted us play an active role in the life of this school and no matter where our strong points lay, you made it known what you expected. We came to St. Paul’s with A to D grades in the Transfer test and those results have been knocked on the head with the type of education you led here. I myself came here with a B2 in the transfer, achieved four A*’s and five A’s in my GCSE’s and I am working very hard to achieve great results at A-level. This shows the belief that you have infused in students and teachers alike and you have convinced us that transfer test results mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. We came to St. Paul’s at the age of 11 and it is a new start, anything is possible in St. Paul’s. We are better because of that, you have made us better. We think more of ourselves, our self-esteem and confidence as a school is better and our famous maroon blazer and our famous school crest is now one of the strongest brands in education because of this.

In St. Paul’s we students remember things, notice things and see things that you might not even know. We know and appreciate the fact that everyday at half ten you chose to take your cup of tea and your scone with us rather than the quiet of your office. We also know that when you spoke to us you didn’t use high fluting language or big words that we might not understand, you spoke to us at our level, in concepts that we understood. We appreciate the fact that you always took the time to stop to talk to us, you know that we are good footballers, good Irish dancers and good musicians and we have loved this personal touch. You also insisted that all of us have had as many experiences as possible by giving us opportunities to travel to Kenya, Lourdes, Romania, Sweden, Spain and France and also allowing us to go on trips to Scotland, to the pantomime and to the cinema. Only a school like St. Paul’s, run by you, could have on one hand 90% A to C grades at GCSE and on the other hand, like last Friday, have pupils coming into school dressed in Christmas jumpers, while the 6th years ran to Camlough dressed as Santa Claus. There is an educational term that you have used many times, which is the education of the whole child and by incorporating this into St. Paul’s this shows how committed that you are, not just to our academic education but to turning us into all rounded people of God.

 There are other moments beyond 3:20; we will remember you fondly for. Mr Mooney, even though you claim you can’t dance we will remember you and your wife Ann for jiving around the floor at our school formals, her often leading you. Indeed you both stayed until the very end of the night to ensure we all got home safely. We and our parents appreciate that care and attention. We hope you both will put in a guest appearance at this years formal in the Carrickdale in September. Outside school, we will remember meeting you at GAA matches where you would be supporting your beloved Culloville, wearing your St. Paul’s jacket of course. We all look forward to continuing to see you in the next GAA year.

Mr Mooney you always highlighted the importance of the words from our school prayer faith, hope and love and you without doubt have all these qualities and that is why everyone in St. Paul’s has so much respect for you. Indeed we know students in other schools are so jealous of us and that fact that we live and breathe St. Paul’s, something you have inspired us to do.

On a more personal note, I will never forget having the opportunity to travel to Kenya with you in February 2013. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and there you taught me many valuable lessons for life and I realised just how much of an inspiration and role model you really are. Not many students at St. Paul’s, or even beyond have the privilege of saying that they travelled to Kenya with their school principal and spent 12 days there with him. But I can! Along with Niamh, Barra, John, Conor and Eileen, we are proud to say that we travelled on a plane with you across the world. I don’t think anyone would be able to say that they had to pretend that their school principal was their dad and that he nearly sold them for 20 cows, but I can say this and I’m very lucky to be standing here today! My parents are eternally grateful to you that I am not herding cattle in a Kenyan field and remain safely tucked up in Whitecross.

Mr Mooney, I also want to thank you for the faith you had in me by choosing me as Head Girl. It is an honour to hold this position of responsibility and I will be forever grateful to you for seeing my potential and taking out the best in me. Peter is now going to present you with two gifts. One of the gifts is in honour of you to the school. It is a chalice representing your devotion to the Eucharist and the way in which you espoused the catholic values of truth, integrity, compassion and kindness throughout your time in our school. You were also a regular visitor to the school oratory and in that simple act of attending mass you inspired so many of us to follow suit because you are that type of person. The second one, which I hope you enjoy is to show the love that you have for the GAA and it is a years ticket for all the activities in Croke Park next year, one of which I think are tickets for one direction, which you might give me first refusal on. On behalf of the pupils here today I am delighted but slightly saddened to have this task of officially saying goodbye to you but I can assure you, you will never be forgotten. We wish you, with your wife Ann, children and grandchildren, a very happy, healthy and active retirement.



One comment

A great speech remarking on a great man and the work he has done. An inspiration to all that walked through the doors of St. Pauls.

by Emmet Mc Keown on 18/12/2013 at 1:40 pm #

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