Mark Mooney: Musician saw no 'man-made boundaries'
IT wasn't unusual for Mark Mooney to disappear without warning as a five-year-old boy. His home in Glengormley was just a short distance from the church of St Mary's on the Hill and if Mark was missing, his parents knew where he would be.
He would climb over the little stone wall at the end of Pembroke Court, run past the priest's house and into the church, where he would head straight for the the organ.
Once his family or the priest's housekeeper heard the notes ringing out, they would soon be over to bring him back home.
It wasn't long before a piano was installed in the garage and Mark began lessons.
At eight years old he started singing in the St Mary's choir. At 10 he was with the St Gerard's choir and playing or singing the odd hymn at Mass.
By 14 he was playing the organ and directing the choir at St Colman's in Massforth, Co Down, where his musical career really took off.
He also began sharing his gifts with Christian communities across Belfast, travelling with the Glengormley Methodist Church youth choir to America.
Mark went on to become director of music at Holy Cross in Ardoyne, led the Holy Family folk group and children's choir, and played at Cemetery Sunday at Milltown, at Knock shrine and in countless other places of worship, both Catholic and Protestant.
Whether it was the organ, piano, guitar or harp, Mark could make any instrument sing.
Music was a gift that was simply in him, and one he used to brilliant effect to bring people together.
His mantra was 'no man-made boundaries'. He crossed all barriers of religion, race and sexual orientation, and has left a deep legacy by the example he showed throughout his 32 years.
Mark was the youngest of five boys born to Sean and Mary Mooney, who both hailed from Co Down. One of the brothers, Peter, passed away at 16 weeks in a cot death.
A pupil at St Malachy's College, he was open about his sexual orientation from his mid-teens – he announced dramatically at the dinner table one daay that he thought he was gay, only to be told by his family that there was 'no think about it'.
His last five years with partner Darren McKeown were the happiest of his life and the couple were engaged on Valentine's Day this year.
Mark earned a living through a combination of musical work in nursing homes and income from weddings and funerals, where he played and sang with his "music wifey" Cara McCann.
He loved travelling, and anywhere he went he would always visit the local church to try out the organ.
Mark had been due to go to Lourdes just days before being found dead at his home in Dunmore Court on July 2.
His family have been left devastated, but have expressed their enormous pride in their son and the way he led his life.
They have also thanked everybody who sent Mass cards and attended the funeral at Holy Family Church, including celebrant Fr Patrick McCafferty for his support.
His death has been deeply felt across the diocese of Down and Connor and beyond.
Cara's son Ryan, of Stay Gold Tattoo parlour in Belfast, held a fundraising day in his memory on July 7 that collected £1,700 for suicide prevention charity Pips by drawing semi-colons, a symbol of not giving up.
A month's mind Mass will be celebrated in Holy Family Church on Saturday August 5 at 8pm. Mass will also be said at 11.30am on Sunday August 6 at St Colman's Church, Massforth, where Mark was laid to rest with his grandparents Patrick and Mary.
He is survived by his partner Darren, parents Sean and Mary, brothers Daniel, Gerald and Ciaran and family circle.