We are in a time of great unease and, perhaps, even disease – and they are related. Leaders who are called on to lead say it’s difficult because we are in “uncharted waters”. But isn’t every new day, in every age, an uncharted beginning?

I was wandering through Ahiohill church yard last week in a contemplative mood. As often happens when I slow down the internal engine, I was able to take better stock of what was around me. I have walked past this raised grave countless times since I was posted to the parish three years ago now but I had never paused to ask who was buried there.

A grave in Ahiohill church yard.

On closer inspection of the fast-fading inscription on top, it’s the grave of one of the priests who served Ahiohill Church and Desertserges Parish and who also has a place in history. Fr. Maurice Roche was one of the first two students form the Cork diocese to begin their training for the priesthood at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, in 1795 — the year the national seminary opened. (Prior to this date, most Cork students were educated on the continent.)

Fr. Roche was ordained in 1800 and served a term as curate in Watergrasshill parish and then in the Bandon area before being appointed Parish Priest of Desertserges in 1817. He served the parish and the Lord for 22 years until his death on April 11th, 1839. His grave is just beside the southern wall of the Church of the Assumption whose construction and dedication he would have supervised in 1825, a few short years before Catholic Emancipation.

“Beneath this stone are deposited the remains of the Rev Maurice Roche 22 years PP of Desertserges. He died April 11 1839. Aged ?? years. Requiescat in pacem”

The flagstone and inscription on Fr. Roche’s grave.

Isn’t it all too easy to pass bye and not take account of the complexities of the lives of those who have trodden this soil before us? And, what’s more, may we never take for granted what they have passed on to us but may we graciously give thanks!