Archbishop Bernard Longley was the chief celebrant and preacher at a Mass of Thanksgiving and farewell to mark the retirement of Kevin Caffrey after 20 years dedicated service as Director of Father Hudson’s Society, held at in the chapel at St Mary’s College, Oscott, on Friday 28 October, feast of SS Simon and Jude.
The chapel, in the diocesan seminary, where Blessed John Henry Newman preached his famous The Second Spring sermon on 13 July 1852, and where Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Bishop’s of England, Scotland and Wales on 19 September 2010, was packed to capacity.
Kevin Caffrey and his wife Maria, their children and grandchildren, were accompanied by friends, colleagues and directors of Catholic Social Care Agencies who had travelled from various parts of the country to be part of the celebrations.
Before he gave the final blessing the Archbishop of Birmingham presented Kevin Caffrey with the Papal Award of Merit, the Benemerenti Medal, in recognition of his outstanding service to the Archdiocese of Birmingham and to the wider Catholic Church. This award was greeted with prolonged applause by everyone present.
Bishop David McGough, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, and Bishop Philip Pargeter, retired Auxiliary and former Chairman of Trustees of the Father Hudson’s Society, concelebrated the Mass together with more than a dozen priests. Among them Fr Timothy O’Sullivan, Parish Priest of St Mary’s Parish, Derby, Kevin and Maria’s home church.
At the start of the Mass of Thanksgiving in recognition of dedication and service, Archbishop Bernard Longley welcomed Kevin and Maria Caffrey, their family, benefactors and friends of Fr Hudson’s Society together with Tim Bradford, the new CEO, Staff and Trustees, and representatives of its many volunteers.
During his homily Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “This year has been one of particular importance to Fr Hudson’s Society as we have continued to plan for the future. We were founded in response to the needs of Catholic children in a very different era from our own. Times and needs have changed but the desire to respond to the Gospel has always found an authentic expression through Fr Hudson’s Society. We have adapted our outreach accordingly in response to those needs and in responding to the call of Christ.”
The Archbishop of Birmingham emphasised that: “The last few years have been a challenging period for all our Catholic social care agencies for a number of reasons. We have had to face the impact of the Government’s Sexual Orientation Regulations on our adoption work and find alternative ways to meet the needs of children who deserve our support.”
Archbishop Longley then paid tribute to the vital contribution that Kevin Caffrey made to the work of Father Hudson’s Society during the past 20 challenging years. He said: “Kevin’s work has drawn Staff and Trustees together in pursuing these objectives in response to the Gospel and inspired by the Lord’s own example.
“Kevin, in the course of our celebration today others who have known you longer than me will chronicle the many achievements of your years of service. They will rightly draw attention to the qualities and talents which God bestowed upon you and which you have faithfully developed in gratitude for God’s gifts.
“For my part I simply thank you for enabling so many of us and especially those you have served to catch a glimpse of the peace and joy of God’s Kingdom through your dedicated work.”
Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded: “Kevin, as you hand on your responsibilities within Fr Hudson’s Society you are going to continue to serve the People of God in fidelity to your baptism and in new ways that will open up before you in the years ahead.
“We are all glad that together with Maria you will carry forward through your commitment to the Gospel and to the Church what you have striven to do day by day within Fr Hudson’s Society through serving Christ in others. May you continue to be inspired by the example of our Lord. Through you he has helped us to see more clearly what it means to be an apostle of his love in a world that needs it so much.”
Appropriately, the entrance hymn was Lead Kindly Light, by Blessed John Henry Newman, that includes the line: “Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me.”
Jo Boyce and Andy Ross provided the wonderful music accompaniment to the Mass of St Bernadette by Mike Stanley.
After Mass, a drinks reception was held in the Cloister, followed by Luncheon in the Refectory.
Mr James Quinn KCHS, Chair of Trustees of Father Hudson’s Society, paid tribute to Kevin Caffrey who responded by saying that he had known nothing whatsoever about the Mass of Thanksgiving, until the day before.
Mr Quinn concluded his Foreword to the special Order of Service booklet with the following: “Kevin’s involvement in national and regional groupings has carried the name of the Society nationwide. His involvement nationally and at Diocesan level in Safeguarding is a major part of his work. His work with the Directors of Catholic Social Care Agencies and Caritas has been of considerable benefit to those agencies.
“In all, his quiet and self effacing demeanour, his clear spiritual base and his great man management skills have ensured that to work with him has been a joy. Throughout, the unfailing and mutual support of Maria and their family has provided a solid base. Thank you, Lord; thank you, Kevin.”
*All pictures in this story are by Peter Jennings