The people of Oughterard, Glann and in fact Fr. Seán’s wide circle of friends were praying for his recovery for sometime but alas it wasn’t to be as the Good Lord came knocking and called him home to His Heavenly Kingdom. Death ends a life but relationships live on and for as long as we live Fr. Seán will be part of what we are and we will remember him with great fondness and love.
His proper title was Canon Seán but somehow he never seemed to wear the title among his friends he was plain Fr. Seán, a loving gentle soul who touched the hearts of all who met him.
He died on the 22nd of January following a brief illness. The suddenness of his illness and the speed at which it advanced left the community shocked. He will be truly missed by so many in our locality.
On Saturday morning Fr. Alan Burke with Fr. Martin Moran P.P. Kilannin and Fr. Michael Mc Loughlin P.P. Moycullen who paid very personal tributes to Fr Seán concelebrated Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception so that the people could say their own personal farewells. It was a touching liturgy in which so many from Glann and Oughterard sang, played instruments, read at Mass and brought symbols of Fr Seán’s life to the altar. It was our parish ‘goodbye’ to him. Members of his family joined us afterwards for refreshments in the parish hall. Here we had time to relate our own personal stories of this giant of a man who served us all so well through his ministry.
Glann Peoples’ Special Tribute.
Fr Seán’s sister Teresa and his brother Bertie acknowledged the extraordinary input into the organization of Fr. Seán’s final home coming to Glann. Hundreds braved the harsh winter elements on a dark wintry night by meeting his coffin at the bottom of Camp St and light the road to Glann with candles. ‘The lighting of the way” had a deeply spiritual meaning of this Fr. Seán’s final sad journey back to his roots. The people provided portable lights, installed safe walking facilities over cattle grids, removed and replaced the window to allow access of Fr. Seán’s coffin in to his front room. Grave-diggers, traffic marshals and Gardai worked under extreme weather conditions to make sure that his own people did him proud and so they did. The ladies of Glann provided refreshments to all who visited his home to pay their respects.
Past Pupil Pays a Worthy Tribute
David O’Connell, editor of the Connacht Tribune and former pupil of Fr. Seán’s said in his tribute, “Never has a more gentle soul walked on God’s green earth: a kind, self-effacing, modest man who somehow managed to quietly touch the hearts of everyone, the joy of his mere presence lifted your spirits. Seán’s funeral Mass took place on Sunday in Galway Cathedral. It was packed to overflowing. Former colleagues, former students, old friends, retired soldiers who loved the fact that he was their chaplain too accorded him a Guard of Honour as he left the Cathedral for the last time.
His old school where he had been an integral part if its fabric – student, teacher, President, chaplain for an incredible 52 years did him proud on Friday with a Mass that captured him perfectly. There was a reverence of course but also a humour. As David said, ‘This ceremony was punctuated with memories from so many people – former colleagues, fellow priests, distinguished past pupils and current students who made you proud to have passed through the same classrooms and study halls.
They brought gifts to the altar that represented his values and life – from basketball to the fishing rod to the red and black scarf in the College colours that he wore with such pride.
His fellow teachers may never make it on the X-Factor, but their version of the old seaman’s anthem, Fiddler’s Green with the Corrib replacing the sea and the docks – has never been sung with more raw motion in tribute to their old pal.
His great friend, the current President of St Mary’s Fr. Barry Hogg, and the school principal Ciaran Murphy, can be rightly proud of the part that they, the students and staff – past and present – played in ensuring the unforgettable send-off.
His fellow teacher – the closest colleague in the sense that his classroom was next door – Gerry Dempsey read a wonderfully evocative piece he’d written, entitled simply ‘Neighbours”.
“Between your room and mine, he wrote, “there is a four inch block …. three short steps. There we often spoke, sometimes of Science, Economics or Scripture, but mostly of matches, Metaphysics, poets and people of character. Things that, to you, mattered.
“The last time I saw you through that picture window, I waved. You smiled, a snapshot of faith in practice; tranquil among school children.”
Students Pay Tribute
The students were asked to sum up their thoughts in one word, and they were carried in the special mass booklet on the day.
Some of them went like this: “Kind, gentle, caring, trustworthy, humble, understanding, cook, friendly, non-judgemental, friend, supportive, sympathetic, passionate, wise, affable, gentleman, decent.”
And there were more – but it showed that, more than half a century after he first crossed the threshold of St. Mary’s College, the latest generation loved him like all that had gone before them.
Fr. Seán – Wise Counselor
Fr Seán always offered wise counsel, but only when asked. He was a true Christian, but never in a showy way; He radiated an inner calm and serenity that always left you better for meeting him.
But he had a sense of humour too, and a great laugh. He was an avid reader of everything from poetry to Philosophy to American detective novels. He had a particular affinity with the words of his old friend, his one-time student and former clerical colleague, the late John O’Donohue.
He took his religion very seriously, and the thought he put into every ceremony was astonishing. He never fell back on the easy option, but sought out readings that meant something to those present – and John’s Anam Cara was often his first port of call.
He was laid out in his clerical garb, but without the Roman collar – his own wish because he didn’t want to be seen, either here or on the other side, as anything more than another ordinary man. But in reality he was much more than that.
Work in Retirement
He was supposed to be retired, but he still took classes in St Mary’s where he continued to serve as chaplain, offered masses in Oughterard or in his beloved Glann Church where he returned to for the final time on a bitterly cold Sunday.
He enjoyed the simple life of books and fishing, and walks with Nollaig, his ever faithful canine companion. Every year with the help of his good neighbours and friends he reclaimed a little more of the wild ground beside his house; he loved the soil and seeing things grow. He loved nature and the changing seasons. An abiding image people have of Fr. Seán is out in his boat with his dog standing at one end, and he fishing and contently smoking his pipe.
Fr. Seán a simple man who was never in favour of pomp or ceremony would be honoured, amused and deeply appreciative of his neighbours, and friends in put to the whole ceremony surrounding his death. We will indeed miss him.
Guímid suaimhneas sioraí dó imeasc na nAingeal i bhFlaithis Dé.