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In memory of Francis Agnew

Funeral Francis Agnew Large e mail view

Celebrant: Very Reverend G. Powell P.P.

I welcome you to this funeral liturgy for Francis.

Death is always a shock; even more so when it’s the death of someone close to us who has died long before his time. Today I have many words and I have few words to say the real caring things we would like to say to one another.

We all come here to remember a young man, to give thanks, even in our grief, for his life, to offer each other, and especially those who will most miss him, the consolation of our love and our presence with you today; and to offer also the promise of eternal life.

Our consolation will be the happy memories we have of Francie; our sadness is that a young man has gone from us. Our sure Christian hope is that the Lord our God will welcome him home and that one day we will be united together in heaven. In the depth of our loss and hope we now pray and offer this Eucharist for Francis.

We come to God, knowing we need his mercy and forgiveness, and so in preparing to celebrate the Mass we call to mind our sins.

Lord, you suffered and died in our name. Lord have mercy.

Lord, your heart was moved with compassion for the sick and the bereaved. Christ have mercy.

Lord you suffer with your people at the right hand of the Father. Lord have mercy.

And may almighty God, have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and bring us to life everlasting.

Let us pray:

Almighty God and Father of all, you strengthen us by the mystery of the cross and with the sacrament of your Son’s resurrection. We pray for Francis, grant him peace. Welcome him to the eternal joy of the kingdom and give us all new hope in our sorrow that one day we shall all be with you and with each other in your home where every tear will be wiped away. Grant, this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

God speaks to the world today through many gentle preachers and prophets – but God also speaks to us in silence. Today we come to the church today to say farewell to a gentle prophet – Francis Agnew.

Francis, through Baptism was called and marked by God for a special mission in life. He spoke to us everyday in the quietness of his simple life.

Francis was born on 29th January 1965, the 6th of 7 children of Harry and Rita Agnew. Francis was the last of the children to be born in Chapel Row before the family moved to Miller Park.

Francis was ‘special’ from the moment he was born. From the very beginning, he had a tough battle with his disabilities and, in his early years, he could crawl and take a few steps, swiping the rest of the family with the brush handle!

The medics at the time assured his parents that Francis wouldn’t see his teenage years, and at the age of 12, he was anointed by Fr. McMullan after suffering a stroke.

He had only three words: Lil-la (for his aunt Lily), Dada and Mama.

In the earlier years, Francis loved going to Glenvale every Sunday – maybe because he knew that Warrenpoint and Omeath were to follow! He loved going to Warrenpoint – that meant ice-cream.
He attended the Gateway Club, where he met Sr. Anna Maria and visited Lourdes on two occasions.

When his mum Rita became unwell 13 years ago, Francis moved to the Springvale Road with Gerard and Kate. As Gerard said while he cared for Francis for the last 13 years, his mum had cared from him 24/7 for nearly 40 years before that.

As Kate said she was fully aware when she married Gerard, there were 3 in the marriage – Gerard, Francis and herself.

The children idolised Francis. He and Jack loved watching ‘Barney’ together, with Jack lying on top of him! He had a great love for chocolate – Clare Rose said he had more chocolate than Willy-Wonka but when Jack and Francis shared a bar, the split wasn’t just even! He was Coca-Cola’s best customer – the proper full-blown stuff and it had to be ice-cold from the fridge.
Harry was the technician! He was Francis’ ‘wingman’ – responsible for the loading and unloading the car with the wheelchair and the cases and making sure the ramps were in place.

For a boy who couldn’t talk, Francis made a very good liar. He communicated with his left arm and his rattle. Sometimes, he beat his chest so hard he hurt himself and so Lily came up with the idea of putting a white sock on the rattle, which worked! Then recently, he could no longer hold the rattle as his hand became more clenched. But no problem to the children – a small maracas was found that just fitted nicely into his clenched fist and so communications were opened again! When Francis was rattling, it meant he was happy.

Francis’ health began to deteriorate at Christmas but he recovered enough to spend Easter in Donegal with the family. Then gradually, he became weaker and on Sunday evening, after ‘rattling’ all day, Francis felt asleep for the last time, with the rattle in one hand and Gerard holding the other.

He was contented sitting in his chair by his side listening to the Dubliners. Whiskey in the jar was a great favourite.

If God gave Francis a restricted life he may be asking the rest of us whose handicaps are not so obvious, to begin to realise that our lives are not measured totally in his eyes by intelligence tests, feats of endurance or outstanding skills – it’s what’s in here – in the heart - that really matters.

Yet here we are wading through the worries of the world, always troubled by what is trivial in life – all the time searching for a contentment and peace that is always just beyond us and here in the midst of us today is a special young man, who was always happy and quite content, untouched by any of our daily problems. What God is telling us I think is that again and again he has chosen the weak to confound the strong. For all of our striving, for all that money could buy we haven’t the peace or the vision that he gave to Francie.

Special children need special parents and special brothers and sisters who were prepared to learn a new set of values for living. No parents and family could have done more for Francie than his own family who knew Francie’s simple, innocent, uncluttered world of joy.

There is no word in Irish for someone with ‘a learning difficulty’ but they use the words “Duine le Dia” – meaning someone with God. For all the love, care and patience you brought to Francis, God will reward you:

“Come blessed of my Father – I was a stranger and you made me welcome – God was among us in Francis”.

We live in a world where we are slow to trust each other – but Francis reached out to everyone as a friend. He had no vices. He had no enemies. He took life a day at a time, people one at a time, friendship – a hug – one at a time. He couldn’t talk love, he lived it.

On behalf of the parish community I extend our sympathy to his loving mother Rita, brothers John and Gerard, sisters Mary, Carmel and Bernadette, brothers in law, sister in law, nieces and nephews and all the family circle – “Blessed are you who mourn for you shall be comforted”, and “Blessed are you Francie, who showed such courage and love for in you we have caught a glimpse of the graciousness of Christ. Amen.





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