After twenty-five years in the same parish, Father O’Shaunessey was saying his farewells at his retirement dinner. An eminent member of the congregation – a leading politician – had been asked to make a presentation and a short speech, but was late arriving.
So the priest took it upon himself to fill the time, and stood up to the podium.
“I remember the first confession I heard here twenty-five years ago, and it worried me as to what sort of place I’d come to… That first confession remains the worst I’ve ever heard. The man confessed that he’d stolen a TV set from a neighbour and lied to the police when questioned, successfully blaming it on a local tearaway. He said that he’d stolen money from his parents and from his employer; that he’d had affairs with several of his friends’ wives; and that he’d taken hard drugs. You can imagine what I thought… However I’m pleased to say that as the days passed I soon realised that this sad fellow was an exception and that this parish was indeed a wonderful place full of kind and decent people…”
At this point the politician arrived and apologised for being late, and keen to take the stage, he immediately stepped up to the microphone and pulled his speech from his pocket:
“I’ll always remember when Father O’Shaunessey first came to our parish,” said the politician, “In fact, I’m pretty certain that I was the first person in the parish that he heard in confession..”