THE BISHOP WHO married Michaela McAreavey to her husband John just over two weeks ago described her killing as “an evil act”.
Bishop John McAreavey was speaking at the funeral Mass of Michaela at St Malachy’s Church in Ballymacilroy, Co Tyrone.
The body of the 27-year-old teacher was borne in a simple, light-coloured wood coffin at 12.37pm to the church in which she was married to Down footballer John McAreavey just over two weeks ago. She was killed on honeymoon in Mauritius this day a week ago.
Her husband John and her parents Mickey and Marian Harte followed the hearse to the church door, the assembled crowds of mourners outside parting to let it through. The church carried two signs, above the door and propped against a stained glass window, indicating ‘Family Only’. Television cameras were not admitted to the church at the request of the Harte and McAreavey families but a live audio stream was carried by RTE. Hundreds of mourners gathered outside followed the funeral Mass on a large screen erected outside the church’s grounds.
Michaela’s coffin was brought to the top of the church with a choir singing The Clouds’ Veil, accompanied by a pianist, followed by a opening hymn, Christ Be Beside Me.
Bishop of Dromore Dr John McAreavey presided over the Mass with the help of four concelebrants, Fr Michael Seery, parish priest of Ballymacilroy; Monsignor Aidan Hamill of St Peter’s Lurgan; Monsignor Eoin Thynne, head chaplain of the Irish Defence Forces; Fr Gerard McAleer, who managed the Tyrone team along with Mickey Harte; Fr Gerard Powell, parish priest of Tullylish; and Fr Peter McAnenly, chaplain of St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon where Michaela taught Irish and Religious Education.
The Catholic clergy were joined by the Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe Ken Goode, and the diocese’s Communications Officer, the Rev Earl Storey.
Michaela’s husband John sat with his parents Brendan and Tish McAreavey, his sisters Claire and Anne, and brother Brian, alongside Michaela’s parents Mickey and Marian Harte, her brothers Mark, Michael and Mattie and her sisters-in-law Sinead and Josephine.
Bishop McAreavey made special acknowledgement of the thousands listening in to the service on the internet. Dignitaries present included President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop Dermot Clifford, who is patron of the GAA and Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s aide-de-camp Michael Treacy. Martin McGuinness, deputy First Minister at Stormont, the head of the GAA, Christy Cooney, and the High Commissioner of Mauritius in the UK, Abhimanu Kundasamy, also attended.
In a touching tribute to Michaela’s “life and faith”, members of her family brought symbols and personal items to the altar at the start of the Mass. Family photographs were ”symbols of her pride in the Hartes, Donnelly, McAreavey and McCann families”. Rosary beads were ”to symbolise her deep faith and trust in God and devotion to Our Lady”.
Her dedication to the Irish launguage and culture – Michaela was a fluent Irish speaker and taught Irish – was symbolised by the Fainne Or. The Bishop said, “This interest led her to study and graduate as a teacher of Irish and religious education and touch young minds and hearts”.
A Pioneer pin represented her “commitment to faith and action, to positive lifestyle choices”. A rose, “a symbol of beauty and love” was brought to the altar to recall her time representing Ulster at the Rose of Tralee in 2004.
In a poignant final offering, tea and biscuits were brought to the altar. Bishop McAreavey noted that this offering ”doesn’t need any explanation”. Michaela, who didn’t smoke nor drink, had brought several packets of Rich Tea biscuits in her suitcase on honeymoon to Mauritius as she enjoyed them with her tea. She was returning to her hotel bedroom to fetch a packet after lunch last Monday when it is believed she came upon a robbery there and was killed.
“That special day”
In his homily to the church, Bishop McAreavey said that it was just about this time last Monday that the news began to filter through that Michaela had died. Since then, he said, “it seems the whole world has been touched by Michaela’s death”. But he urged Michaela’s loved ones to hold onto the memory of “that special day” on December 30 when she and John married in the church rather than the day on which her death became known.
A reading of a letter from St Paul to the Romans was included as the second reading at Michaela’s funeral – the same reading was made at her wedding to John just over a fortnight earlier.
“Their lives revolved around one another”
Bishop McAreavey also spoke of listening to Michaela’s mother Marian speak with “great warmth and affection” of her only daughter in the past week. He described the meeting of John and Michaela as students five years ago. As their love grew he said:
Their lives revolved around one another and each of them talked endlessly about the other. Their hopes for the future were bound up together.
“An evil act”
He spoke of the “glow of happiness that radiated from Michaela and John” at their wedding. He continued:
An evil act ended Michaela’s life last Monday. It robbed John of his beautiful wife, and deprived her brothers and parents of their precious sister and daughter.
Addressing his nephew John, he said: “You are still in a state of shock”. He told Michaela’s family and friends that he hoped her deep religious faith and belief in God would be of some comfort to them.
After the offertory hymn began to play, clerics and lay assistants dispersed among the crowd inside and outside the church to dispense communion. A favourite song of Michaela’s, Caledonia, was sung by a lone female voice at the end of communion service.