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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Broadcaster shamed as Fr Reynolds is embraced by his flock

Wronged priest keeps his counsel as he presides over first communions


AHASCRAGH in Co Galway was a picture of innocence and tranquillity yesterday as the small, tightly knit community came together in St Cuan's Church to celebrate the first holy communion of 21 children drawn from the town and surrounding countryside.

Presiding over what one local described as the "happiest day of the year" was Fr Kevin Reynolds. What a difference a year makes.

For one year ago to the very day, the quiet and unassuming parish priest had his world, life's work and vocation turned upside down by the appalling misdeeds of State broadcaster RTE's Prime Time Investigates team and its programme A Mission to Prey.

While it would be easy to say that Fr Reynolds had put all that behind him yesterday -- following the publication on Friday of the BAI's report, in which the full extent of RTE's sins against him were officially confirmed -- it would probably be wrong.

"He's a good man, but the hurt he must feel will take a long time to go away," one local told the Sunday Independent.

From early morning, the phone in the parish house came alive with calls from well-wishers in the town and beyond as Fr Reynolds busied himself with preparations for the communion service, which got under way shortly after 11am.

Unfailingly polite and courteous, Father Reynolds invited the Sunday Independent to step inside when we called to his door shortly after 9am to see if he might have something to say about the whirlwind of events, of which he has been at the centre for several months now.

There was a lot that he could have said, but having not had the time to digest the BAI report properly and with the children's big occasion less than two hours away, Fr Reynolds simply smiled and opted to keep his own counsel.

Given the horrific ordeal he has been through and the resonance that yesterday must have had for him, it was a perfectly understandable position to take.

Stopping for a moment to take the weight off his feet in his simply furnished living room and to thumb through the pages of the Irish Independent, the softly spoken priest was reluctant even to make any comment on the front-page coverage relating to him, saying only that he was very much looking forward to the day ahead.

Having made a promise to his solicitor Robert Dore not to comment, Fr Reynolds, it seemed, was determined to honour it.

However, he did agree to a photograph but requested that his parishioners be left alone to enjoy their big day.

Whether it was down to excitement or nervousness on the part of the children and their parents, the car park and the road outside the small church begin filling up with cars at 10.30am -- a full half-an-hour before the Mass was due to begin.

The church itself was festooned with bunting, while at its gate the papal flag, Tricolour and Galway county banner billowed in the cool May breeze.

Once it got under way, the Mass itself took just over an hour-and-a-half. Shortly before 1pm, the church's doors opened and the children stepped out with their families.

While many of the attendees got into their cars and headed off to go for special celebratory lunches and to begin the traditional rounds of relations, others paused for a moment to have their photographs taken and to chat with Fr Reynolds outside the church.

Having exchanged pleasantries and accepted the well wishes there, he then ambled up the road to St Cuan's parish hall to attend a communion party.

While the distance between the church and the hall is barely more than 100 metres, it must have taken the well-loved priest a full 10 minutes to walk it, given the number of times he had to stop to accept the thanks and the kind remarks of his parishioners.

Ever humble and ever grateful for their support, Fr Reynolds reached into the plastic bag he was carrying and presented one of his flock with a gift-wrapped present and thanked them for their help with the communion service. He then apologised for not having a card to go with the gift.

He was asked if it was a box of chocolates, but laughed and said: "No, you'll have to hang it on the wall," before bidding the couple a good day.

Asked by the Sunday Independent how the communion celebration had gone for him, he politely declined to comment once more.

But his smile said it all.

Sunday Independent

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