After 11 years as rector of Castlecomer group of parishes, the Revd Canon Tom Sherlock is retiring at the end of this month. And it’s a time that, he says, has just flown by.
His final service in the Church of Ireland Diocese of Cashel and Ossory will take place in St Mary’s Church, Castlecomer on October 18 at 7.30pm, and all are welcome to attend.
Having been a farmer in his native Cork for 35 years, he was ordained in 1990 and served in the parishes of Limerick and Templemore before coming to Castlecomer in 2000.
He decided to make the change from farming to ministry, he said, because “God was in my ear the whole time. He kept after me until I said yes.”
Yet it didn’t feel strange to take up the new calling, he recalls.
“I suppose you could say I took to it like a duck to water,” Canon Sherlock says. “I love meeting people. I love helping people, in their joys and their sorrows. I have touched the lives of a lot of people in the last 21 years and they have touched mine, because ministry is never one-way.”
His role of rector meant meeting plenty of people over the years, which certainly helped him and Hazel, his wife of 42 years, to settle in and become part of the community. “When I came here I knew nobody,” he says, although “it’s strange that as time went on you’d have family connections with here, there and everywhere. It was really enjoyable, the last 11 years here.”
What he has most enjoyed in his time in north Kilkenny, he says, is “serving people, generally”.
“I love working ecumenically and working with fellow priests in the surrounding areas, who were always very kind and hospitable to me since I came here, and I hope I have built some bit of a bridge here and there,” he says of the community in which he worked closely with the Catholic priests in the area, often performing blessings and other events together.
“The amount of good wishes that are coming through from the whole community is just incredible, unbelievable,” he says. “I have got them in abundance.”
Hazel has likewise been actively involved in the community, notably through the Mothers Union an international Christian charity that supports “families of all faiths and none” through outreach, prayer and advocacy of family-friendly policies within government and public life. She is currently its all-Ireland vice president and locally has also served as diocesan president, secretary, and action and outreach officer.
And now they are preparing to return to their native Cork.
“I am going back to where I was born,” Canon Sherlock says of Kildorrery in north Cork. He has gone back to visit over the years, but still “it will be a culture shock, and it will be a big adjustment from not having to work to a diary.”
Among the village’s claim to fame, in addition to being the inspiration for the song Famous Kildorrery Town, is the fact that it’s where Cow and Gate baby food was started in 1886, Canon Sherlock points out.
“As a young chap they had a creamery and I delivered milk to the creamery with a donkey and cart,” he recalls, and later did so with a horse and cart and then with a tractor and trailer.
The Sherlocks will be missed
Their presence will be missed in north Kilkenny, however.
“In the past 11 years they have made a tremendous contribution to the community, not just within the Church of Ireland but also the wider community, and both of them were very much identified with the community from the time they arrived here,” says Mons Michael Ryan, PP Castlecomer.
“Over the years there has been a great ecumenical spirit following on from the work of our predecessors,” Mons Ryan says, noting that they have shared pulpits and ecumenical blessings for occasions such as the opening of the local library and the refurbished courthouse. Two years ago they also travelled to Northern Ireland together to pray in the two cathedrals in Armagh and at St Patrick’s grave in Downpatrick.
“They made a wonderful contribution to the social fabric of the town,” added Cllr Maurice Shortall. “They got involved with numerous voluntary organisations and certainly put their shoulder to the wheel in terms of charitable and deserving causes.”
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