EIGHT PRIESTS WHO HAVE INSPIRED ME
(In alphabetical order)
CAMARA, Helder: (1909 – 1999) was the Archbishop of Recife in Brazil and nick nickname was “Bishop of the Slums”. He dedicated his life the “urban poor” – the people who lived in Brazil’s shanty towns. He was hated by the corrupt Brazilian government and army and by the powers that be in the Vatican – who always side with the rich and powerful. He has written several books. The one I like the most is A THOUSAND REASOND FOR LIVING. One of his best quotes is:
“WHEN I GIVE BREAD TO THE POOR THEY CALL ME A SAINT. WHEN I ASK WHY THE POOR ARE POOR THEY CALL ME A COMMUNIST”.
If we had a just and honourable Church (which of course we don’t) Camara would be St. Helder of Brazil.
HAYES, Tony: Father Tony Hayes was a priest of the Rosminian Order in Ireland and was based at their house in the Comeragh Mountains in C. Tipperary –just outside Clonmel.
For a time he was on the staff of Saint John’s College, Waterford, the seminary in which I completed my priestly studies between 1973 and 1976. During that time he was my spiritual director and confessor. Tony had a very commanding presence and was a wonderful teacher and preacher. When I was in his presence I felt the presence of God about him.
HYDE John: Father John Hyde was a Jesuit priest based at Tullabeg, Rahan, Co. Offaly and was a regular visitor to my childhood home. He was on the one hand a quiet simple man and also a profound theologian. He was a great friend to the sick and to people in need and he had a deep love of the Irish language. My granny and the whole population around Rahan believed that Father Hyde had the gift of healing. There are many stories of sick people making a complete recovery after been blessed by him. There is one story about him bring a young man who had drowned in the canal back to life. He made a deep impression on me in my childhood and may very well have inspired my priestly vocation. I continued to visit him in my adult life and was privileged to concelebrate his funeral Mass at the Jesuit church in Gardiner Street in Dublin. I believe that he a saint. I also think that his gifts and his saintliness have not been fully acknowledged by the Irish Jesuits. Another Irish Jesuit used to quote the following lines to me about the Jesuits:
“THE JOIN THE ORDER WITHOUT KNOWING EACH OTHER;
THEY LIVE TOGETHER WITH LOVING EACH OTHER;
AND THE DIE TOGETHER WITHOUT MOURNING EACH OTHER”
KUNG, Hans: (1928 - ) Father Hans Kung is the most famous and articulate Catholic theologian of the 20th and 21st centuries. He was born in Switzerland and for most of his life he has been a professor of theology at the University of Tubingen in Germany. Pope John XX111 made him a “peritus” or advisor at the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960’s. He has a 50 year association with Joseph Ratzinger the current pope. They last met in 2005. But while Ratzinger is right wing Hans Kung is a liberal thinker. He is still a “priest in good standing” in the Catholic Church (whatever that means) but decades ago the Vatican forbade him to teach in Catholic universities or institutions. He has suffered massive opposition, oppression and black propaganda at the hands of the Vatican but has remained steadfastly loyal to his faith and priesthood. I have admired him for many years for his principle, integrity and his refusal to be run off the road by the Vatican regime.
Currently I am reading a recent book of his which I am finding a source of immense spiritual inspiration – WHAT I BELIEVE which is available through Amazon on the internet.
PIERCE, Canon John: Father John Pierce of the Archdiocese of Dublin had been a curate in Beechwood Avenue, Dublin for any years when he was appointed parish priest of Ballygall Parish in Dublin’s East Finglas area. He was my parish priest at the time I entered seminary in Dublin in 1970. He was later transferred to the Parish of Rathmines in Dublin and made a canon. He was a very spiritual man but also a man of the world. He was an elegant dressed wearing starched linen collars, fine suits and overcoats with brolly and black leather gloves and drove a very sporty car supplied to him by Matt McQuaid Motors – Matt being the brother of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin.
Canon Pierce was extremely kind to me during my time in seminary and on occasions would have taken me out to a movie and a high class meal. He was also appointed by Archbishop McQuaid to be the chaplain to the Dublin prostitute community. He would scour the streets late at night, talk to the girls and bring them to a hostel for counselling, food and support. He was a heavenly man with his feet firmly planted in this world. What words would I use to sum him up? I think I would use the words spiritual, integrity and compassionate.
SHINE, Monsignor John: Father John Shine was the vice president of St John’s College, Waterford when I went there to study in 1973. He also taught me moral theology, canon law and pastoral studies. He later became college president. When he left teaching he became the parish priest of Tramore, Co. Waterford and was made a canon of the diocese, a monsignor by the pope and finally diocesan dean.
He had, and indeed has, a sharp wit, a very good logical mind and is a wonderful and compassionate pastor. I witnessed the streams of people who came to consult him at the college and watched as he faithfully went off to hear confessions every Saturday. I also regularly found him in prayer late at night in the college chapel. Like Canon Pierce he is not all other worldly. He has always liked his Toyota cars and his round of golf. He and I would disagree on many things. But he is a big enough man to agree to differ and remain friends.
TYRRELL, George SJ: (1861 – 1909). Father George Tyrrell was a native of Dublin and started off life as a member of the Church of Ireland (Anglican). He converted to Catholicism and entered the English Province of the Jesuits. He was a theological thinker and writer of utmost integrity and in the early 20th century he wrote very critically of the Roman Catholic Church establishment and the Vatican. Under pressure from Rome he was designated a “modernist” and was expelled from the Jesuits and finally excommunicated by Peter Amigo the Catholic Bishop of Southwark. He died in Storrington, England in 1909 and was refused a Catholic burial! He is interred in the Anglican cemetery in Storrington. In 2003, on the anniversary of his death I went to his grave in Storrington and celebrated a full funeral mass over his grave. On the same day I also went to visit the current Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Kieran Conry and asked him to publicly apologise on behalf of the Church to George Tyrrell for the way he was treated. Nine years later Bishop Conry has still to act. I also believe that the Jesuits own George Tyrrell a big apology for their lack of principle and courage in not defending their brother from Roman tyranny.
WILSON, Father Des: Father Des Wilson was ordained a priest in 1949 for the Diocese of Down and Connor and for the last 63 years he has laboured tirelessly for the most needy in Northern Irish society. Originally he taught at St. Malachy’s College in Belfast and in 1975 he became a priest in the parish of Ballymurphy in West Belfast – where he encountered degrading housing conditions, state, police and British Army oppression of his people and a Down and Connor bishop and clergy doing little or nothing about his people’s sufferings. He fell foul of the out of touch bishop of the time – William Philbin and two diocesan “heavies” Canon Padraig Murphy (his parish priest) and Monsignor Mullally (the diocesan vicar general). Down and Connor is the only diocese in the Catholic world to have expelled Mother Teresa of Calcutta!
Father Des made his momentous “option for the poor” and moved into the same housing as his people and forever afterwards has worked in areas like housing, adult education and justice. I have watched him give himself unselfishly to his people – to a level that I would be incapable of. Since I came to Belfast in 1978 he has been both an inspiration and an example to me. He is quite simply one of the greatest priests I have ever met.
Bishop Pat Buckley
Bishop Pat Buckley