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Obituary of the First Parish Priest
Father William Henery, retired parish priest of St. Teresa's, East Calder, died in Grangemouth on 28th April, 1987, in the 73rd year of his age and the 39th of his priesthood. At the Funeral Mass in the church of the Sacred Heart, Grangemouth, on 30th April, the following homily was delivered by the Right Reverend Mgr. Anthony Canon McNally, V.G.
Have you noticed recently that whenever you open a Catholic Newspaper or periodical there are columns of adverts offering a great variety of courses on scripture, courses on theology, courses on ministries, courses on counselling, courses on spirituality. All I'm sure of excellent quality, and all sadly reminding me of something I'm already painfully aware; which is, how little I know. Well over the past two months, unknown to me at the time, I was on a course of a different kind. It was a course on how to die and it was given by Father Willie Henery.
It all started the day his doctor told him his illness was terminal. And he stunned the doctor by replying, "Thank you Doctor”. When the Doctor asked him what he was thanking him for, he said, "You have just acted as God's postman, bringing an invitation for me to come home. It's a little earlier than I had expected, but it gives me time to prepare.” And prepare he did. He resigned his parish; put his affairs in order. and went to stay with his sister Elizabeth, in Grangemouth.
There then began a a procession to that home in Grangemouth of priests and people from all over the diocese and beyond. Priests of every age, the young and the old,...... All beat a path to the door. What did they go to see? A dying man. What did they find? An elderly priest at peace with God, at peace with his fellow men, at peace with himself. And the highlight of all those visits was surely on Holy Thursday, when his Grace, the Archbishop, went to concelebrate Mass with Father Henery. Holy Thursday is a day special to priests, and on his death bed with enthusiasm and real joy, Father Henery renewed his priestly vows and his commitment to serve Christ in his priesthood. Throughout it all he never lost his sense of humour. Someone said to him one day, "Willie, you're sitting up there like the Duke of Buccleuch". And he replied "Oh no, I'm better off than him ... I've got no worries." Everyone came away from that home uplifted, encouraged, rewarded. Father Henery's resignation and willingness to accept God's will was a lesson to us all. But to learn how to die, you must know how to live. Father Henery had·given his life to following in the footsteps of Christ ... obeying God's call to become a priest, he was now obeying God's call to come home. His life was one of obedience to the will of God.
His road to the priesthood began in 1927 when as a young boy of thirteen he entered Blairs College. In 1931 when his father was tragically killed in an accident at work, Father Henery stayed at home, and worked to help his widowed mother bring up a young family. But his heart was set on becoming a priest, and he was due to go to Osterley to continue his studies in August 1939, with another young man, whom we now know as Father Willie Anthony, when war broke out and the departure was postponed. So for a short time Father Henery found himself defending his country as part of the local fire brigade until it was established that as a student for the priesthood, he was exempt from service in the Forces. But he did go on to Osterley, then on to Blairs to study philosophy, then to St. Edmund's College, Ware, to study theology, and finally he was ordained in St. Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh on 29th June, 1948.
His first appointment was to St. Cuthbert's as a curate, where part of his ministry involved Saughton prison. He was then moved to the house in Greenbank, still in St. Cuthbert's parish, where with another young priest, Father Karl Kruger, they looked after the City Hospital and Craiglockhart Convent. In 1953 he was asked by the archbishop to become a chaplain to the territorial army, and a year later he was asked to become a full-time chaplain in the regular army. He was posted to Germany, but with the outbreak of war in Korea, he was transferred there and carried out his priestly ministry in Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. He was demobbed from the army in September 1960, and was appointed to Bonnybridge with the remit of building up the community in Banknock. In 1968 he moved out of Bonnybridge, possibly because I was now there as his fellow-curate, and for the next six years he lived in a single room at the end of the building which was used as an oratory. He did this deliberately because his presence meant that he could now reserve the Blessed Sacrament for the people in Banknock. Something which was very dear to his own heart. And he always prided himself on keeping the door open so that people could visit the Blessed Sacrament. After years of work his dream came true when he was able to open the new church of St. Luke's in Banknock.
In 1980 he was asked to go to St. Kentigern's in Edinburgh which was a big change after twenty years in Banknock. But he obeyed his archbishop, and in St. Kentigern's he founded the S.V.P. society and the Young Men's society which are still flourishing there. In 1984 he was appointed to St. Teresa's in East Calder, where he found great peace and happiness, and use to say that his greatest joy was the primary school at the bottom of his garden.
To learn how to die, you must know how to live. Father Henery lived a full and varied priestly life ... a life of service and obedience. Little did he know that his priesthood would take him to the jungles of the Far East But it was all in the service of the Lord. I chose the gospel in today's Mass because it speaks of the call of Christ; it speaks of service; it speaks of discipleship and it speaks of the cost of discipleship. The men Jesus asks to follow him in that Gospel, all said, "Yes. I'll follow you, but first let me...” There was always a but and a me. At end of the Gospel Jesus says "Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." Willie Henery never looked back over his shoulder from that very first day he gave himself to Christ in the priesthood. He didn't allow himself to get in the way of God. In his life as a priest he went forward and touched many lives with the gentle touch of Christ, and in his dying as a priest he touched many lives with his sure faith in the risen Christ. “The
life and death of us has its influence on others. If we live, we live for the Lord and if we die, we die for the Lord. Father Willie Henery both lived and died for his Lord. In life he lived close to Christ, in death they must surely be together. Bit if Father Willie were here today, he would remind us that we are here to pray for him, so while we commend him to the mercy of the God he loved and served, we also commend him to your prayers. To his sister, Elizabeth his brother Michael, and the family, our deep sympathy on your loss, but equally our gratitude and admiration for the care, the concern and the love he received in your home. Like himself, you didn't count the cost but gave yourself unstintingly. Thank you for your example of love in a Catholic home. When I called to see Father Willie in Easter week, we were reminiscing and I recalled an Easter Monday many years before when we went for a run into the countryside, and it was beautiful with the green grass, the spring growth and the flowers beginning to appear. It was very Eastery. And as I Father Willie that day I said, "Think Easter." Today we are all thinking, but I hope and pray that Father Willie is now living Easter with the Resurrection and the new life it promises for those who follow Christ.
May he rest in peace
Site Last Updated - 13/04/2012 01:50:51