'Axel' remembered with mass 'we will never, ever forget', says Olive
The wife of the late Anthony Foley has said the response to a campaign led by her son Tony (11) following the passing of the rugby legend has been an "unforgettable experience of solidarity".
Speaking after the concluding Mass in the #8masses4no8 campaign yesterday, Olive Foley said the engagement around the campaign "has reflected the kindness of people".
The final mass, which was initiated by Tony just the day after his father's burial, was celebrated at Knock Shrine yesterday by Knock Parish Priest Fr Richard Gibbons with an estimated 2,500 in attendance.
Olive, her sons Tony and Dan, Anthony's parents Brendan and Sheila, and sister, Rosie all travelled from Killaloe, Co Clare.
Speaking afterwards, Olive said the campaign and especially the final mass was an experience that will carry them through the tough days ahead.
"We've had and will continue to have for a long, long time very difficult moments and days. But today was a good day for us and this campaign generally has been amazing," she said.
"Tony came up with the idea and we all supported it on the grounds that it was so others could have their loved ones remembered alongside Anthony. We got such incredible support following what happened to Anthony that we just wanted others to come under that roof and feel the warmth.
"We had people contacting us from all over the world and today at Knock was no different. Each and every one of them had a story to tell about a person close to them who also passed away.
"We were just so privileged to have so many others join us in this journey and we will never, ever forget that.
At the start of yesterday's mass, the family presented a No 8 jersey and placed it on a table in front of the altar. A candle was then lit and placed beside it in memory of all who have died and been remembered in the campaign.
In an emotional homily, which was greeted with instant and sustained applause at the end, Fr Richard said that while he never met or knew Anthony Foley, he was struck by his likeness in character to Saint Joseph.
"Saint Joseph uttered no words in scripture but from what I have heard of Anthony, he was, publicly at least, a man who preferred to let his actions do the talking but when he did talk, people listened," he said. "He was, like Joseph, a great family man and we welcome the Foley family with love and support here today to Knock."