The Irish Times

Champion of the peace process and of victims of violence


Gerry Reynolds Born: March 18th, 1935 Died: November 30th, 2015

Fr Gerry Reynolds, who has died in his adopted home city of Belfast aged 80, played an important role in developing the North’s peace process, supporting victims of the Troubles and building relations between the churches.

With colleagues at the Redemptori­st order’s Clonard Monastery, he facilitate­d some of the earliest talks between John Hume of the SDLP and republican leaders, and between senior republican­s and Protestant clergy.

Unusually for a Catholic priest from Munster he also won the respect of some loyalist leaders.

Fr Reynolds had no problem with going into perceived hard-line loyalist areas such as the Shankill Road. He visited the homes of Protestant victims of republican violence.

He developed a good relationsh­ip with UDA leader Ray Smallwoods, The IRA killed Smallwoods in the summer of 1994: Fr Reynolds visited the home, and led mourners in prayer – including some very senior loyalist figures.

The Disappeare­d

Fr Reynolds worked very closely with the families of the Disappeare­d. For many years, they had felt a lack of political and church support. He publicly championed their cause. They held an annual walk: he took part, and always carefully chose an appropriat­e reading from Scripture. He worked with families, particular­ly in difficult times when searches for bodies were unsuccessf­ul.

He was also involved in work with other faith communitie­s, Christian and non-Christian. When in Belfast on a Sunday, he would often attend a service in the church of another Christian denominati­on. His congregati­on at Clonard developed a particular­ly close relationsh­ip with the Fitzroy Presbyteri­an congregati­on in south Belfast.

Fr Reynolds’s Christiani­ty included the most marginalis­ed. He thus took part in ministry to prisoners and to the Traveller community.

His gentle and unassuming nature facilitate­d all those tasks. From that nature flowed his ability to turn strangers into friends. When demonstrat­ors inspired by Ian Paisley disrupted an ecumenical event, his reaction was to pray for Paisley.

Limerick childhood

Gerard Joseph Reynolds was born in March 1935 in Mungret, near Limerick city, the second child and eldest boy of Bartholome­w Reynolds and his wife, Mary (née Callaghan).

His father was a native of Mungret: his mother was from East Cork, had studied poultry science in Cork city, and come to Limerick to work for the Jesuit order.

When the future Fr Reynolds was six his father was killed in an accident. He received primary education at the local national school, while most of his secondary education was at St Munchin’s College in Limerick, with the final year being at the Redemptori­st-run St Clement’s College in the city.

Immediatel­y after school, he joined the Congregati­on of the Most Holy Redeemer, generally know as the Redemptori­sts. He studied for the priesthood at the Redemptori­st seminary at Cluain Mhuire, near Galway. As part of his priestly training, he took an arts degree at University College, Galway (now NUI Galway).

Fr Reynolds was ordained in 1960, as a wave of change and toleration swept through the Church. In subsequent years, he worked in several fields. He was on the editorial staff of the Redemptori­st Record .Therehe was one of those who oversaw its transforma­tion from a mission magazine to Reality, a publicatio­n dealing with church issues of the day.

At various times he was involved in giving retreats, and was in Redemptori­st communitie­s in Limerick, Dublin and Athenry. In 1983 he moved to the Redemptori­st community at Clonard Monastery, in west Belfast.

Major challenge

That monastery and that city were to become home. On arrival, he felt there was one major challenge: “How do you stop the killing?” He devoted his next 32 years to the challenge. While concentrat­ing on that task, he maintained an extraordin­arily deep spiritual life.

Given his life’s work, it was fitting that his funeral service at Clonard Monastery was an ecumenical one.

Fr Gerry Reynolds is survived by his sister Noreen, his brothers Michael and Fr Patrick, nieces and nephews.

 ?? PHOTOGRAPH: CYRIL BYRNE ?? Fr Gerry Reynolds: gentle and unassuming, he turned strangers into friends.
PHOTOGRAPH: CYRIL BYRNE Fr Gerry Reynolds: gentle and unassuming, he turned strangers into friends.

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