While ordinarily, a priest reaching four decades of service would be something to be celebrated with parishioners, family and friend, it was an altogether quieter affair for Fr Jim Cogley as he marked his ruby jubilee last week.
Ordained in Rosslare on June 22 of 1980, Fr Cogley served a year in Cushinstown, 28 years in Kilmore Quay, 7 years in Oylegate and he's been on his most recent assignment at Our Lady's Island for the past four years. While Covid-19 inhibited any kind of celebration, Fr Cogley is hopeful that he will mark the occasion during this year's Lady's Island Pilgrimage, which looks set to go ahead as usual from August 15.
'I suppose there's an awful lot of anniversaries that have taken place during Covid that people have been unable to mark,' Fr Cogley said. 'My hope is that we'll be able to have a special celebration of Mass on one of the Sundays during the pilgrimage for all those who couldn't celebrate and mark occasions, including my own thing.'
Speaking of marking the occasion, Fr Cogley says that he's received a lot of well-wishes from friends and parishioners, even though they couldn't be with him.
'Who, even in their wildest dreams, could have envisaged reaching out with the Gospel to thousands of people via webcam, and yet be looking down at an empty church,' he said. 'The word 'webcam' probably wasn't even in existence back when I was ordained. We may not like change but if we don't go with it then it will force itself upon us whether we like it or not. The future is never what we think it's going to be so it's important to live in the NOW, which could stand for No Opportunities Wasted.'
Reflecting on his career thus far, Fr Jim said he has few regrets about the way things have panned out.
'On many occasions I have been asked would I do it all over again,' he ponders. 'The truthful answer is yes, a thousand times yes, and without any hesitation. A little saying I had printed on my ordination card back then was; In His Will do we find our true lives. That full-bodied "yes" to Spirit 40 years ago has brought more blessings joys, friendships and fulfilment into my life than I could ever have imagined. Whatever dreams I had for my life back then have been fulfilled many times over and far beyond my expectations.'
Having served across south Wexford mostly, Fr Jim is now extremely content in Our Lady's Island where he has become part of the fabric of the community.
'I believe, with every fibre of my being, that this is where the Lord wants me at this time,' he said.
'This is the first place where Christianity came to Ireland as early as the year 300AD and, as an ancient sacred site, it holds the seeds of hope for the future. I deem it a great privilege to be able to nurture those seeds and do my bit to feed the thousands who come for the Word of Life.'