A significant difference in the lives of many

A significant difference in the lives of many Celebration of Diamond Jubilee (60 years of Priesthood) of Fr John Carroll SPS in St. Anne’s Church, Sligo. Photo: Facebook page of St Anne's Church

Like Ben Bulben, Fr John Carroll is a cherished landmark around Sligo! Like Ben Bulben, the shadow of his presence crosses county boundaries. For many years he was the chaplain in the town’s hospitals and continues to have a very active and pastoral presence to this day. It is impossible to put a number on the amount of people he has met and ministered to in the drama of life. Suffice it to say, John has made a significant difference in the lives of many people and has been there for them at some of their lowest and darkest moments. A truly wonderful man.

The other side of John’s ministry, includes a deep love and respect for those living with additional and intellectual needs. He was attached to Cregg House for many years and lives in its shadow in his so-called retirement. There he ministered to residents and staff, with equal and commit- ted dedication. He was at home in their home, and they were at home with him.

You might well think he must have died! Usually and regretfully, we spare words of praise and recognition for people’s funeral Masses, but John, thankfully, is very much alive. A lady once told me, when I wrote something about my own father on Father’s Day, that it was the right thing to do and that we should, to use her words: “Give them flowers while they can smell them!” She was right.


Just over a week ago, I attended a Mass in St Anne’s Church in Sligo where many hundreds of people gathered to celebrate Fr John’s Diamond Jubilee of Ordination. For 60 years this man has given of himself so freely and meaning- fully that people gathered to say thanks. Fr John celebrated the Mass and was joined by priests and deacons of Elphin diocese and beyond, by priests of St Patrick’s Missionary Society (Kiltegan), of which he is a member. The celebration was just that – celebration. It was Eucharist, thanks-giving for God’s many blessings given to and received from the hands of Fr John.

It was incredible to watch and a privilege to be part of such an outpouring of goodwill and faith”

Much of the congregation was made up of John’s friends from his time in Cregg House and St Cecilia’s School. John’s wish was that this Mass would be “inclusive” – and so it was. Liturgically, the flow of the Mass may have been stretched a little, with the Kyrie being “interrupted” by one of the congregation who wanted to lead us in her ‘Prayer of The Faithful’. She was not alone. John went through the church, radio microphone in hand, to several of the congregation who led us to a place where we responded “Lord, graciously hear us” to their prayers and all this somewhere between “Christ have mercy” and the opening prayer of the Mass. It was incredible to watch and a privilege to be part of such an out- pouring of goodwill and faith.

One of John’s friends was in the sanctuary to ring the bell and she rang on cue. She then joined Fr John to lead us in the echoed singing of the Our Father. The response from all gathered matched her faith-filled enthusiasm. As Fr John was about to continue with the prayer after the Our Father and lead us to a place where the sign of peace might be exchanged, she held her place at the microphone and began to sing ‘Congratulation and Celebrations’ and the church was alive.


Fr John did not preach at the Mass. He didn’t need to. There was nothing he could have said that would have added to the wonder of God present in that place of worship. He never spoke of himself or his 60 years of priesthood. He didn’t need to. There was nothing he could have said that would have added to the truth of his vocation and his gratitude to all who have touched his heart and life.

I came away from that Mass, a little teary but blessed for having been there. I came away too, challenged, wondering about my own life as a priest and the difference it makes. I came away with great hope and optimism, that Fr John witnesses to something I deeply believe in, and that people continue to value dearly – priesthood and ministry. Finally, I came away with a word in my heart that John has for all people, ‘respect’.