“Unforgettable experience of solidarity” – Olive Foley
The wife of the late Anthony Foley has said that the response to a campaign initiated by her 11 year old son Tony following the passing of the Munster and Irish rugby legend in October has been an “unforgettable experience of solidarity”.
Speaking after the concluding Mass in the #8masses4no8 campaign which took place in the Basilica on Sunday 18th December, Olive Foley said the engagement around the campaign has reflected the kindness of people.
The final Mass in the campaign, which was initiated by Tony just the day after his father’s burial, was celebrated at Knock Shrine yesterday by Knock Parish Priest Fr. Richard Gibbons and saw crowds travel from the four provinces, swelling numbers in the basilica to twice the norm for this time of year, with an estimated crowd of just short of 2,500 attending the Mass.
Olive, her sons Tony and Dan, Anthony’s father and mother Brendan and Sheila, sister and others all travelled from Killaloe and were joined by hundreds more from Co. Clare .
Speaking afterwards, Olive said that the campaign generally and especially the final Mass in Knock was an experience that will carry them through the tough days ahead. “We’ve had and will continue to have for a long, long time very difficult moments and days. But today was a good day for us and this campaign generally has been amazing.
“Tony came up with the idea and we all supported it on the grounds that it was so others could have their loved ones remembered alongside Anthony. We got such incredible support following what happened to Anthony that we just wanted others to come under that roof and feel the warmth.
“We had people contacting us from all over the world and today at Knock was no different. I must have met everyone in the basilica after Mass and many travelled for hours. Each and every one of them had a story to tell about a person close to them who also passed away.
“We were just so privileged to have so many others join us in this journey and we will never, ever forget that. We offered today’s Mass for all those who died and whose family or friends wanted remembered by this campaign.”
The family presented a No. 8 jersey at the start of Mass and placed it on a table in front of the altar. A candle was then lit and placed on the table in memory of all who have died and been remembered in the campaign.
Olive and her sons Tony and Dan also brought the gifts at the offertory procession.
In an emotional and gripping homily, which was greeted with instant and sustained applause at the end, Fr. Richard said that while he never met or knew Anthony Foley, he was struck from what he has heard by his likeness in character to St. Joseph.
“St. Joseph uttered no words whatsoever in scripture but from what I have heard of Anthony, he was, publically at least, a man who preferred to let his actions do the talking but when he did talk, people listened. He was, also like Joseph, a great family man and we welcome the Foley family with love and support here today to Knock.
“They have been remarkable in their grief. They have been so selfless in invitignng others to remember their loved ones with Anthony in this campaign and it has helped so many. I’ve read some of the comments and what’s struck me is just how appreciative people were of this.
“Many people have gone back to Mass for the first time in a long time as a result of this campaign and really appreciated and liked being back. It shows yet again that there is a great need for spirituality and the door is always open.
“The Mass has always been very sacred to Irish people and this campaign shows that it is still so today. It shows that it can have a deep and enriching experience and not least at a time of need.”
Said Olive of today’s Mass: “It was incredible. There was such a sense of peace and compassion and Fr. Richard’s homily was amazing. It was so kind of him to invite us up today and to dedicate this Mass to the campaign. What we saw here again today reminded us of just how important our faith is and how it is carrying us through a very difficult time.”