Michaela McAreavey formally Michaela Harte was laid to rest after her funeral Mass at St Malachy’s Church in Ballymacilroy, Co Tyrone this afternoon.
Mourners heard Bishop John McAreavey, who married Michaela and his nephew, John, just over two weeks ago, describe her murder as “an evil act”.
John, and Michaela’a parents, Mickey and Marian Harte followed the hearse in a car up to the door, with the mourners outside making way to allow them through. The church carried two signs, above the door and propped against a stained glass window, indicating ‘Family Only’. Television cameras were not admitted to the church at the request of the Harte and McAreavey families but RTE were permitted to carry a live stream of the mass. Hundreds of mourners gathered outside followed proceedings on a large screen erected outside the church’s grounds.
Michaela’s coffin was carried to the top of the church as the choir sang The Clouds’ Veil. The opening hymn was, Christ Be Beside Me. Bishop John McAreavey said the Mass with the help of four concelebrants, Fr Michael Seery, parish priest of Ballymacilroy; Monsignor Aidan Hamill of St Peter’s Lurgan; Monsignor Eoin Thynne, head chaplain of the Irish Defence Forces; Fr Gerard McAleer, who managed the Tyrone team along with Mickey Harte; Fr Gerard Powell, parish priest of Tullylish; and Fr Peter McAnenly, chaplain of St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon where Michaela taught worked as a teacher.
Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe Ken Goode, and the diocese’s Communications Officer, the Rev Earl Storey also took part in the mass. Bishop McAreavey acknowledged the thousands of mourners who listened to the service on the internet. President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, were among the dignitaries present. Also in attendance were Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop Dermot Clifford, patron of the GAA and Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s aide-de-camp Michael Treacy. Martin McGuinness, deputy First Minister at Stormont, GAA president Christy Cooney, and the High Commissioner of Mauritius in the UK, Abhimanu Kundasamy, were also at the service.
Members of Michaela’s family brought symbols and personal items to the altar at the start of the Mass. Family photographs were ”symbols of her pride in the Hartes, Donnelly, McAreavey and McCann families”. Rosary beads were ”to symbolise her deep faith and trust in God and devotion to Our Lady”.
As Michaela was a fluent Irish speaker and taught Irish, a Fainne was also brought to the altar. Bishop McAreavey said: “This interest led her to study and graduate as a teacher of Irish and religious education and touch young minds and hearts”. A Pioneer pin represented her “commitment to faith and action, to positive lifestyle choices”. A rose, “a symbol of beauty and love” was also brought to the altar,a reminder of her time representing Ulster at the Rose of Tralee in 2004.
Bishop McAreavey noted that the tea and biscuits brought to the altar ”doesn’t need any explanation”. Michaela, had brought Rich Tea biscuits in her suitcase on honeymoon to Mauritius . It was when she returned to her hotel bedroom to get these biscuits after lunch last Monday that she was set upon and killed.
The Bishop said that it was just about this time a week ago that the news began to emerge that Michaela had died. In the interim, he said, “it seems the whole world has been touched by Michaela’s death”. He urged Michaela’s family to hold onto the memory of “that special day” on December 30 when she and John married in the church rather than the day on which her death became known.
He also told of hearing Michaela’s mother Marian speak with “great warmth and affection” of her daughter over the last few days. Describing the love between John and Michaela he went on to say:
“Their lives revolved around one another and each of them talked endlessly about the other. Their hopes for the future were bound up together”.
“An evil act ended Michaela’s life last Monday. It robbed John of his beautiful wife, and deprived her brothers and parents of their precious sister and daughter”.
Speaking to his nephew, John, the Bishop said: “You are still in a state of shock”. He told the Harte family and friends that he hoped her faith and belief in God would be of some comfort to them.
A favourite song of Michaela’s, Caledonia, was sung by a lone female voice at the end of communion service.