Munster legend Anthony Foley was remember as far away as the Holy Land today while his 11 year old son Tony lit a special candle for his dad today as crowds flocked to Churches in his area and beyond in response to his campaign to have departed loved ones remembered.
The eldest son of the late Munster legend officially kicked off his #8masses4no8 campaign by lighting his own special candle with his mother Olive after Mass at St. Flannan’s Church in Killaloe – on the day of his father’s 43rd birthday.
Tony came up with the campaign idea last weekend following the outpouring of support on his father’s passing on October 16th. The number ‘8’ will, of course, forever be special to the boy and his family as it is synonymous with his late father –Munster’s most successful ever No. 8.
Tony, to honour his father’s memory, had asked people to go to Mass this Sunday and each of the next seven Sundays to remember their loved ones.
The facebook campaign on the Axel Foley Memorial page www.facebook.com/axelfoleymemorial/ has gained massive traction in the six days since it was launched, triggering well over a quarter of a million engagements.
Messages have come in from all around the world, from rugby and non-rugby supporters, all touched by the 11 year-old and his family’s initiative to encourage other loved ones to be remembered.
Posts have been received from as far afield as Swaziland, Argentina and Macau and New Zealand, and right across Europe.
Pilgrims from Anthony Foley’s home diocese of Killaloe are on Pilgrimage to the Holy Land this week.
Today in Jerusalem and Bethlehem they responded to young Tony Foley’s request that we remember his Dad today on his birthday together with all our loved ones.
As the campaign for #8masses4no8 gets underway Fr Anthony McMahon from Ennis celebrated mass in the Holy City and prayed for the hope of resurrection and new life while our pilgrims joined in singing the Fields of Athenry.
The weekend has seen huge numbers of candles lit in support of the campaign in Churches and homes around the world, with huge numbers posting photos on Facebook with thoughts of their own loved ones as well as of Anthony Foley.
Some Churches in the East Clare area had to set aside separate tables, in addition to candleabras, to accommodate the numbers being lit.
A photograph of one such table, at the Church in the home parish in Tuamgraney, Co. Clare of Tony’s mother Olive received over 2,000 likes alone within hours of being posted last night.
At St. Flannan’s Church this morning, Mass attendance more than doubled, with standing room only by the time the Sunday service ended.
Many travelled from distance and among those in the congregation were old rugby colleagues of the Munster coach and playing legend, among them Marcus Horan and Johnny Lacey.
Noting the crowds, Fr Paddy McMahon said, “I know many of `you may be here today because of young Tony Foley’s invitation but I would say to you don’t come for the eight Sundays, stay coming beyond that. We’d love to have you here every Sunday.
The Foley and Hogan families were overwhelmed by the response.
“It’s been incredible,” said a family representative. “Tony came up with this idea to try and have others included with all those thoughts and prayers for his father and it has worked. It’s heart-warming to see the Church so full today.
“We’ve got messages from all over the world over recent days. What has heartened the most is the number of people who have gone to Masses or dropped into Churches to light a candle for their own loved ones, not just Anthony.
“Tony himself is thrilled with the response. None of us could have expected his idea to have caught on like this. And some people who travelled for half an hour or more said they are coming back here again next Sunday.”
“Today is a big day for them as it’s Anthony’s birthday. But it has been made easier for them by the response to the campaign.
“Just like his father, he is not giving up. What he wants now is for people to keep it going over the next eight Sundays.”