Templemore Union say farewell to the Revd Canon Peter Cole-Baker on his retirement.
‘A ministry of faithfulness and integrity coupled with dignity and courage’.
On a sunny, warm afternoon on 27th July 2014, it being the last Sunday in the month, the people from Thurles and Kilfitmone gathered with the people of Templemore in St Mary’s Church Templemore to offer their best wishes for the future and give thanks for the ministry of their Rector the Revd Canon Peter Cole-Baker who had served in the Union of parishes for nearly 15 years.
The service was led by the Revd Canon Ian Poulton, Rector of Clonenagh and assisted by Diocesan Reader Mr Charlie Wallace, Father Eugene Everard the parish priest from Templemore, Mr Adrian Hewson Diocesan Reader in Roscrea and the Revd Tom Sherlock former rector of Castlecomer.
Indeed it was back in 2000 when the then rector the Revd Tom Sherlock moved to Castlecomer from Templemore in October. In a relatively short few months, the vacancy was filled by the Revd Peter Cole-Baker who was instituted on 1st May 2001 by the then Bishop the Right Revd John Neill.
After graduation from the New Universtiy of Ulster, Peter went to Switzerland to work in the Du Pont Corporation. In 1995 he returned to Ireland to study for the ministry and completed a curacy in Portrush before becoming rector in Templemore. He was to return not far from his own place having originally come from Bansha, Co. Tipperary.
In his opening greeting Canon Poulton welcomed everyone and offered apologies from clergy colleagues who were unable to be present.
The service began with the well-known hymn describing God’s will to his people: ‘Be thou my vision’. The fine organ in St Mary’s was played by Hazel Tynan.
In the Service of the Word the first canticle and the psalm were read by Mr Adrian Hewson with the congregation. The first lesson was read by the Revd Tom Sherlock and the second canticle was read by Fr Eugene Everard with the congregation. The second lesson was read by the Rector that was then followed by the address given by Canon Poulton and which then was followed by the ‘Nunc Dimittis’.
Canon Poulton spoke of the continuity of the church and the responsibility of priests to carry on that work as he looked at the plaques on the wall dedicated to former rectors, indicating the vast connection there is around the country both now and in the past, down through the generations. A sense of being part of something much bigger and much greater than can be imagined. One’s time is but brief, no matter how many or few years. It is part of the succession of Christ’s great church. Peter Cole-Baker is part of that succession having taken the baton for his time in Templemore, now to pass it on.
A priest faces his people, both in life and in death to be judged on the basis of his people, by his work in the parish and this how he will be assessed on the Day of Judgment before the Lord.
Canon Poulton continued by giving thanks for Peter’s ministry; he has surely gone the second mile, and the third mile, putting heart and soul and body into everything he has done. The best thanks any parish to give to its priest is for it to be all that he would want them to be. It is said that it is best that if the rector visits in a year after retirement and is not perhaps fully recognized, he will be pleased as the parish will have moved on. However it is still important for the parish to pay tribute to its rector as is happening this day.
It is no matter if the parish is small or large: great things can come from small numbers (like the parable of the mustard seed and the yeast read earlier); small communities can be lively and confident; what matters is in the heart. It is not where one comes from, it is like the fish in the net: sorted into the good and the bad.
It is important to have made a difference, to hold fast what has gone past and then the challenge to build for the future, keeping the churches open.
He paid tribute to Peter for making that difference and his ministry filled with integrity and commitment and hopefully having moulded the parish into good shape for going forward for the next stage in its life.
The prayers were led by Mr Wallace and in the prayers and thanksgivings Canon Poulton gave thanks for the ministry of Canon Cole-Baker and prayed that others in the future would continue to hear ‘the call’. He prayed that the various vacancies within the Diocese would soon be filled and that parish life would continue as at present with open churches, a challenge for all parishes and priests acting as stewards as they persevere with the continuity of the church and acting as messengers of God.
The service concluded with the reflective hymn ‘Like a mighty river flowing…’ showing God’s purpose.
As the clergy retired to the vestry, they lined up at the altar rail to face the table and bow. It seemed that the Rector just lingered those extra few seconds, perhaps knowing that that was the last time he would be ‘in office’ in the church and had paused for a quiet second of reflection and reverence. It was a fleeting but poignant moment as he left the sanctuary for the final time as rector.
Later refreshments were served in the school adjacent. Presentations were made by all the churches and the occasion was conducted by Mr Charlie Wallace who thanked the ladies the preparing the supper and to Canon Poulton for taking the service.
Mr Derek Coulter spoke on behalf of St Mary’s, Thurles and thanked Canon Peter Cole-Baker as pastor to the parishioners of Thurles. Despite small numbers, Thurles was always well cared for by Peter, despite his illness. He often travelled to Thurles on dangerous roads early on winter mornings.
Derek thanked him for his visiting of the hospitals, nursing homes and the elderly and indeed everyone over the years in Thurles. He wished the Rector well in the future and he hoped he would enjoy his retirement in his new home in Wexford and also extended very best wishes to his family for the future.
Mr John Johnson spoke on behalf of the parishioners of Kilfitmone and thanked the Canon for his influence and for all he did for the parish and wished him and his family well in his new home in Wexford. He thanked him for his perseverance despite his difficulties – he certainly ‘kept going all the time!’
From Templemore Mr William Carr spoke with gratitude for the Canon’s long ministry in Templemore, not just parishioners but the whole community of Templemore. Diagnosed early in his time here, Peter persevered and as Mr Carr knows being warden for a number of years, he never let his disability inhibit him in his work and ministry. This was especially evident by continuing to attend important Diocesan and national church meetings, much to the surprise and respect of his peers and colleagues. He was there, no matter where the location was, and summed up by the one word ‘courage’.
He also reminded everyone of his commitment to the Chapter of St Canice’s Cathedral and his ministry there as Canon of the prebendary of Blackrath.
Finally he wished Peter a very happy, fruitful and a well-earned contented retirement.
Father Eugene Everard echoed the sentiments of the previous speakers and spoke of it being an important day for all concerned. He was delighted to be part of it all and on behalf of the priests of Templemore thanked Peter for his cooperation and genuine ecumenical spirit that has existed among the parishes. Peter, he said, is an inspiration to everyone.
Word had filtered through that Wexford hurlers had lost in the quarter-final so Father Everard concluded by suggesting that Peter now has a mission of helping Wexford as he moves down to that area!
Gifts from the parishes were then presented by Ms Kathleen Young and who had been the inspiration for the gathering here today. A bank draft, a framed set of photographs of the three churches were all presented along with gifts for his sons present, Edward and William, and also for Lesley and Kate who could not be present for the occasion.
Mr Wallace spoke finally and said through thick and thin Peter was there, never shunning duty and had ‘fought the good fight’. And also that Peter would be granted many more years to do so
In reply Peter paid tribute to everyone, especially Mr Wallace whom he described as ‘Mr Templemore’ and also Ms Kathleen Young, and thanked her for being so much part of the church and for being there no matter what.
And in typical fashion Peter concluded by saying that the people of the Templemore Union is the living embodiment of what Christ wanted and He would look down and say ‘You lot were worth dying for!’