Fr John Flanagan (1925-2018) – An Appreciation by St Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan.
JOHN Joseph Flanagan was born on April 20, 1925, to Owen Flanagan and his wife Mary Catherine (née Nugent) of Rathcarbery, Keady, Co Armagh.
He received his primary education at the Poor Clare Convent School and later at the De La Salle Brothers’ School, both in Keady. For his secondary education he studied at Armagh CBS before transferring to St Patrick’s College, Armagh. He joined St Patrick’s Missionary Society in September 1943 and did the Spiritual Year at Humewood Castle. He studied philosophy at St Patrick’s, Kiltegan, between 1944 and 1946 and then pursued a four-year course in theology at St Patrick’s.
He was ordained along with 13 classmates on April 9, 1950 (Easter Sunday) in St Mary’s Church, Killamoat. The ordaining prelate was Bishop John W Heffernan CSSp, the retired Vicar Apostolic of Zanzibar.
After ordination, Fr John was appointed to the Diocese of Calabar, Nigeria.
He worked there for 18 years. He began in Essene with Matt Magrath and then went to work in Oron with Vin Hannigan. His next appointment was in Urua Akpan. This was followed by some years in Eman Uruan where he built the Father’s House and a fine church. He spent a couple of years in Ireland on promotion work in the early 1960s then returned to Nigeria in 1964 and ministered at Ikot Nseyen.
One of Fr John’s hobbies was fishing. He loved to fish in the Cross River at a place called Ikot Offiong. He was displaced by the Nigerian Civil War and was forced to return to Ireland.
In 1969 he took up an appointment in the Diocese of Down and Connor at Ahoghill, Co Antrim, and worked there until 1972.
He had a great desire to work in his home Archdiocese of Armagh and this wish was granted in 1972 when he was appointed to the parish of Tandragee. He lived at Markethill.
After ten years, he was transferred to Cookstown Parish where he ministered at The Rock. This was to be his home for the next 30 years. Fr John is remembered by the people whom he served as a friendly, self-sufficient man, interested in farming, hedging and cutting logs.
As one parishioner noted: ‘Fr John was always happy with a chain-saw in his hands!’
He was a very zealous pastor who loved his people and served them with all his heart. While he was personally of the strict observance, he showed great compassion to those who experienced difficulties in life.
Fr John was very much a man for getting things done. He had a great ability to rally support for his projects and was never without a willing and competent workforce when it came to deliver. He was very Christ-like in the way he reached out to the members of his flock.
He impressed everyone by his dedication to prayer and to the spiritual life. He made the sick and housebound his special care, especially in his later years.
Fr John enjoyed very good health for most of his life. In July 2012, at the age of 87, he became seriously ill and needed full time nursing care.
He and his family decided that he would go to Fairfield Care Centre in Cookstown rather than to Kiltegan.
It meant he was near the people among whom he lived and whom he served for over 30 years.
In early May, his condition deteriorated. He died peacefully at 10.30 on Wednesday, May 23.
His funeral took place in St Patrick’s Church, Keady with burial in the local cemetery.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam. Fr Tommy Leahy (1939-2018) – an Appreciation by St Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan.
THOMAS (Tommy) Leahy was born on July 27, 1939,to John Leahy and his wife Nora (née Walsh) of Soloheadbeg, Donohill, Co Tipperary.
He received his primary education at Greenane NS and at Newtown NS. For his secondary education, he studied at The Abbey CBS Secondary School in Tipperary town. He joined St Patrick’s Missionary Society in September 1958 and completed the Spiritual Year in June 1959. He went to St Patrick’s College, Douglas, Cork, in September 1959 and attended University College Cork. He graduated with a BA degree in June 1962. He returned to Kiltegan for his theological studies and was ordained along with twelve classmates on April 10, 1966 (Easter Sunday) in St Mary’s Church, Killamoat. The ordaining prelate was Bishop Patrick Lennon, Auxiliary Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.
After ordination, Tommy was appointed to the Diocese of Eldoret, Kenya, where he ministered until 1969.
He served at Nerkwo and Iten. After his first tour, he was appointed to parish work in the diocese of Brentwood near London and ministered in Gidea Park and in Chelmsford.
In September 1972, he was appointed to Malawi and worked in Mzuzu Diocese. His first task was to learn the local language, Chitumbuka.
He taught for many years in St Patrick’s Junior Seminary, Rumphi. He also worked in St Teresa’s Parish, Katete, St Paul’s Parish, Mzimba, St Peter’s Parish, Mzuzu, St Anne’s Parish, Chilumba and St Mary’s Parish, Karonga. In 1987 he was appointed to work in the nearby Diocese of Chipata in Zambia.
There was an acute shortage of priests in Chipata at the time and Tommy answered the call. It meant learning a new language, Chinyanja. He worked in Chassa. He returned to Mzuzu Diocese in 1989. He was expelled from Malawi in 1992 for speaking out against the regime of the then President, Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
Once again, Tommy crossed over the Zambian border and continued his missionary work in Chipata Diocese, this time in Katete.
After a sabbatical in 1994, Tommy was appointed to Grenada in the West Indies and worked in Tivoli, Carriacou and Grand Roy. In 2004, he made the courageous decision to return to Mzuzu Diocese and remained there until 2009. He was based once again at St Patrick’s Junior Seminary, Rumphi.
Ill-health forced his return to Ireland. He was based for a while in Kiltegan and helped in the Promotion Office. When his health improved he took up a pastoral appointment in Ballinaheglish, Co Roscommon (Elphin Diocese).
Tommy was known for his enthusiasm, zeal and sincerity. He helped many people along the road of life.
He was a great friend of the local clergy in Malawi and was always looking for ways in which he could help them. He was in regular contact with former parishioners and colleagues in Malawi.
Tommy was an unapologetic supporter of his native county. He was very proud to have the Tipperary flag flying from his car and was passionate about the GAA.
He was a fine hurler in his youth and his love of hurling remained undiminished throughout his life. He was an extremely dedicated and committed missionary who was willing to serve wherever the need was greatest.
On January 6, 2018, Tommy fell seriously ill as he was about to begin Mass. He was immediately rushed to University Hospital Galway and his condition stabilised. After some weeks in Galway he was transferred to Roscommon General Hospital.
He arrived in the Care Unit in Kiltegan in early March. However, his condition never improved. He died on Wednesday, May 23, at 4.45 p.m. His funeral took place in St Patrick’s, Kiltegan.
May he rest in peace.
The late Fr John Flanagan.
The late Fr Tommy Leahy.