Father Michael O'Donoghue celebrated his Silver Jubilee as a Priest in 1995. A Parish celebration and Mass of Thanksgiving was held on Friday 2nd June 1995. A variety of contributors have offered their perspective on his life as a priest
Pleased to meet you, Father Michael!
Michael O’Donoghue was born in 1946, the youngest of three children, into a devout and close-knit family outside Killarney in the south west of Ireland.
Throughout his life he has retained his deep love for Irish culture and music in spite of having dedicated almost 40 years of his life to service as a priest in the diocese of Nottingham.
His old friend and fellow Kerryman (and our own much loved parish priest for many years) Father Tim O’Sullivan tells us that Michael’s early years were “happy and carefree… in a home which exuded happiness and spirituality”
Such immeasurable advantages combined with a full appreciation of Nature and the fellowship provided by farm work and sport were a wonderful preparation for a life dedicated to community. Young Michael knew he wished to be a priest.
Six years at All Hallows Seminary in Dublin ended in September 1970 with ordination, an unexpected golfing holiday and a one-way ticket to East Midlands airport. At the airport the young curate was met by the parish priest of St Joseph and St Edith’s Church in the sedate market town of Oakham which at that time served the entire Catholic community of Rutland. Father Michael Lynch, now long retired, quickly took to his new assistant priest and they have remained great friends ever since.
After four years in Rutland Father Michael was transferred to St Alban’s parish in Chaddesden near Derby and then in 1980 he was asked to go to “The Briars” where his eleven year Directorship oversaw massive extensions to the facilities and its development into a leading centre of spirituality within our diocese. Education and close working with schools has always been a key aspect of Father Michael’s work wherever he has served.
September 1991 saw a transfer to St Thomas More’s at Knighton in Leicester where together with his parishioners he celebrated his Silver Jubilee in 1995. The new millennium took Father Michael to the newly-built church of St Peter and St Paul’s in Lincoln where his reputation as an outstanding parish priest echoed down the Fosse Way. We shall know the truth of the old saying “Their loss is our gain”. PT
Through the mists of Time from Killarney to Newark
- a reflection in his own words
In early May 1964, Fr John Moynihan RIP, President of St Brendan’s College knocked on our classroom door, looked at me and beckoned me to follow him to the corridor. He leant against one of the column pillars, looked steadily at me and asked “Well Boss, what are you going to do with your life?” Without hesitation I replied ‘I think Father I would like to be a Priest’. “Well Boss, would you like to stay in the Kerry Diocese or go on the Missions.” I would like to go on the Missions, I replied, thinking in terms of going to China where some Killarney Priests had been with the Columban Fathers and had experienced great cruelty in recent persecutions of Christians. Fr John said “There are lots of Kerry Priests in Sacramento in California or Nottingham in England; which do you prefer?” I was stumped: I knew very little of either and said ‘I do not know’. “Well Boss, you go home and tell your parents what you have just told me and come back tomorrow to let me know your decision”.
On telling my parents, my mother just turned away and my father went silent. Fr John Moynihan was a formidable man and I needed to make a decision. So, later that evening I tossed a coin calling heads for Nottingham as my near neighbour Fr Tim O’Sullivan had been ordained for the Diocese of Nottingham three years previously.
On hearing my decision, Fr Moynihan recommended that I should go to All Hallows College in Dublin to commence my studies. He completed whatever forms were necessary and as the Leaving Certificate results were released on August 16th, so also a memorandum arrived from All Hallows detailing the arrival time on September 6th with a briefing on bed linen, socks, shirts (their number and kind). I was to arrive at the College wearing a black hat, black overcoat, black suit, white shirt and black necktie.
Three other former pupils of St Brendan’s College were at the Railway Station for the 10.30am train to Dublin and two others similarly attired were already on the train as it pulled into the station from Tralee. Six Kerrymen were on their way to The Missionary College of All Hallows. I stood by a window looking at my parents as the train pulled out of the station. The indescribable lump in my throat was a throwback to what I was leaving behind and a wondering about what lay ahead. All six black clad young men eventually sat in the same carriage. Somebody produced a deck of cards and we passed the four and a half hours playing 110 (A favourite Kerry Card Game).
The College was full to overflowing, so full that the attic had been recently converted into 21 bedrooms to accommodate the missionary zeal of Ireland in the early sixties. There were 66 First Year Students and 264 students in the College in total. The college was run on monastic lines based on the French system akin to the Council of Trent with minor amendments here and there but well ordered by the Vincentian Fathers. Putting three Kerrymen in the attic rooms was not the best of organization. The ‘Summum Silentium’ or Solemn Silence and lights out after night prayer at 10.00pm until the end of breakfast at 8.30am were regularly broken. Students were not supposed to congregate in each others rooms but that seemed unrealistic to those who were not used to being away from home.
The soft soled noise of the Dean doing his nightly check on lights out brought its own fear and by November my copy of Twenty Years a Growing, detailing life on the Blasket Islands, was confiscated. So too the carefree attitude to study gradually changed and the concepts of Philosophers and Theologians had to live side by side with the art of Gaelic Football with a passing nod to Hurling, Soccer and Rugby. Handball was a game favoured by some but the Tennis Courts were almost deserted.
The College was divided into Junior House and Senior House for the philosophy and theology students respectively. Lectures in a broad variety of subjects were given between 9.30am – 1.00pm. Leisure time between 2.00pm & 4.00pm attracted most to the playing fields where leagues were organized in both Hurling and Football. Woodwork and Art workshops were available for those thus inclined. Everything necessary for survival on the road to priesthood was provided within the stout walls of the college perimeter. Students went home on holidays for Christmas, after Easter Sunday and for summer. Each was expected to wear the clerical garb and report to the local clergy.
Killarney parish was a great source of vocations to the priesthood; the numbers of aspiring students at morning Mass, particularly in the Franciscan Friary at holiday time was a sight to behold – no need for much promotion; there in person was living proof of able bodied, intelligent young men offering themselves freely for the sake of the Kingdom of God and at the same time helping their local football clubs in the East Kerry Championship before the new academic year began.
Easter 1967 is a landmark for two reasons. Firstly the 1966 East Kerry League Final was delayed and the Final date was set for Easter Sunday 1967. No one, not even County Players were allowed out of College for football matches. Our Club, Spa Killarney had reformed with limited resources in 1966 and we had been victorious in the Championship in August of that year. It was important to have 15 fit players and at least five substitutes. Our Club Chairman and trainer prevailed on me to seek permission to play; with temerity I approached the Dean who claimed he had to speak to the President and as Holy Week passed I had not heard yes or no.
These were difficult times for all students; the student revolts in France were beginning to have an influence on Seminary Life also. The once all sacred Professors were now being questioned and representatives of student councils were able to talk freely with the College authorities at appointed times. On Holy Saturday permission was granted. I could go to Killarney on Easter Sunday Morning as long as I was back for night prayer that evening. With great relief and excitement, I rang Tadgh, the Chairman who agreed to pick me up at Mallow Railway Station and bring me to the Fitzjerald Stadium for the big game.
Easter Sunday was bright and cold with a biting wind bringing sleet and snow showers as we trundled along through the plains of Kildare. I was hoping that weather conditions would ease as we travelled south. The wind seemed to get stronger as the match got underway; I was selected at left half back and every ball from the opposition seemed to come my way and nest nicely in my hands. Catch and kick was the order of the day and I was disgusted with myself as many of my efforts were caught by the wind and swept over the sideline only to be kicked back again in my direction. We went on to beat our neighbours by a small margin and Gerald McCarthy, Chairman of Gneeveguilla obliged by driving me back to Mallow station while his friend Tadgh O’Sullivan and the victorious Spa Team celebrated in Jimmy O’Brien’s Bar. I duly reported to the Dean before night prayer and returned home for an eight day post Easter Holiday on Tuesday.
Even more amazing things happened during the Easter holiday of that year. The College staff had a general meeting and had changed the whole college structure in response to the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, student conversations’ and the demands of pastoral ministry worldwide. It was explained that from now on, the College gates were open. Students could come and go as they pleased during leisure time and study time. We were advised to act responsibly, study diligently and use our freedom in the City of Dublin wisely.
It was an exciting time to be in College. Cardinals and other church dignitaries often came to stay on their way to or from Rome; they gave us unexpected talks on new thinking in the church and we were proud that All Hallows College was at the cutting edge of renewal.
In June 1969 I was ordained Deacon along with 39 others in the College Chapel and was assigned to Sutton in Ashfield with Fr Paddy Snee for five weeks pastoral experience before the final year of Theological studies. I arrived on a Thursday morning at Nottingham Railway Station carrying my brief case with sufficient clothing for a Month. I walked to the Cathedral, was greeted by Fr Jim O’Hanlon who led me to the dining room where he was enjoying his cornflakes. Fr John Joe Maloney brought me on to Aspley later in the day and he got me to lead Benediction for the Loreto Nuns before dropping me off to St Joseph’s in his posh Volkswagen Beetle.
By Friday morning I was on the first Tee at Sherwood Forest with Fr Snee and Fr Tom McMahon, the parish priest of Shirebrook. I was terrified, playing in such eminent company and promptly hit the ball off the first tee into a gorse bush never to be seen again. It was my first game of golf as a Deacon in England and it was enough to whet my appetite for the future.
Living in the Mansfield conurbation was interesting and Fr Pat Snee and his housekeeper were exemplary in their care. The inner workings of parish life, the involvement with parishioners, the camaraderie of local clergy and the sense of the family of the Diocese made a lasting impression. The 40 Deacons had a review of their pastoral placements back in College and by the Summer of 1970 I felt able to say on the 14th June ‘ready and willing’ to the ordaining prelate who was a College past man and the Bishop of Bunbury in Australia. On that day, I felt equal to any parish priest or bishop and ready for a life of service in the Nottingham Diocese.
- And to the present
I have been in Newark since September 13th 2008. It was difficult leaving Lincoln. The Bishop’s invitation seemed a little premature but his proposal made sense. My brief from the bishop w
as to be involved with the governors of All Saints’ School in Mansfield as well as caring for the parish of Holy Trinity.
It has been another learning curve; the politics of parish and school life need careful attention. Listening is a great skill, particularly in parish life where people have dedicated themselves through the years. In my ministry I have always given due honour to those who have preceded me and in time done a little tweaking when improvement was deemed necessary.
The educational mantra of Home, School and Parish rings very true for me. I love the involvement of parents in sacramental programmes. The cooperation of schools and parish catechists in supporting parents with ‘Handing on the Faith’ is a wonderful system; Holy Trinity Primary School and All Saints’ Comprehensive are very good examples of such schools. It is very much like St Thomas More and St Paul’s, Leicester and St Hugh’s and St Peter and St Paul in Lincoln.
All three Primary Schools have had ‘Outstanding Ofsted Reports’ and the post primary schools are all described as caring schools with excellent spiritual values. As in many parishes, Catechists with Children’s Liturgy, First Holy Communion and Confirmation Programmes add fresh life to Holy Trinity Parish. Our Journey in Faith Group is a reminder to all of our need for renewal.
Tuesday is my regular ‘Day Off’. It is often reduced to middle of the day ‘off’ but the golf day has been an important element in my relaxation. Somewhere along the way, I learned that it was essential to have a regular break from duty. I ventured to Notts Golf Club, known as Hollinwell in 1971 with Fr Con Moynihan. We shared travelling as he was in Melton Mowbray and I was in Oakham. Bishop Ellis and the Parish Priests played on Monday. Curates played on Tuesday. The young men of yesteryear have continued with Tuesday Golf. It is a mixture of merriment, pastoral care and exercise. It is refreshing for the soul and a few pastoral strategies are often refined over the meal or coffee.
One of the attractive features of my present appointment is that it is only 35 minutes away from Hollinwell, the Holy Well where the Monks from Newstead Abbey used to baptize people long ago. The Well is between the 7th and 8th Holes and refreshing water bubbles from underneath the pencil like rock; it is visited each week and empty water bottles are replenished for the remaining 11 holes. All Saints’ School, Mansfield is even nearer to Hollinwell.
The clergy compete for a number of trophies annually. The last competition of the year is The Feeney Trophy to commemorate Leo Feeney RIP, the former professional of Chapel en le Frith Golf Club who was tragically killed in a road traffic accident in Ireland in 1977. A few trophies adorn my house but pride of place goes to The Feeney Scratch Cup. The photograph shows Leo’s grandson presenting the trophy along with Fr J J Maloney (The Feeney Nett Prize Winner) and Nick Whitehouse, Leo’s son in law. The aforementioned is only a sketch of a very full life in an exciting ministry but you must read between the lines. Wait for the book and don’t hold your breath.
Fr Michael O’Donoghue
Reflections on a ministry from others
"They will be watching from another vantage point" by Fr Tim O'Sullivan, St Mary's, Derby
1946 was a difficult year in Kerry. It marked the 100th Anniversary of the Famine even though there was nobody around who remembered it. It turned out to be a bad year for farmers and those who lived off the land, but Kerry's win in the All Ireland Football Final in September provided consolation and hope as did the arrival of a son to Michael and Nora O'Donoghue of Tiernaboul, a small townland outside Killarney. They named him Michael after his maternal grandfather and he was baptised at St Mary's Cathedral in Killarney with little
fuss by a young priest called Sean Quinlan who later became Professor of New Testament Studies at Maynooth. Michael was the third child in the family and brother Seamus and sister Margaret had to give way to a child, who in the opinion of the neighbours was everybody's favourite.
In his fourth year he began his formal education in the local Primary School and at thirteen he was given a bike and sent for the next five years to St Brendan's College in the town. There he joined boys from all over the Diocese of Kerry in the trials and joys of growing up and in being prepared to face life in the heady times of the 1960's. The childhood and teenage years were happy and carefree. He had a home life that was comfortable and secure. His parents doted on their children and even though their material comforts and luxuries were at a premium their home exuded happiness and a spirituality that came so easy that it might be taken for granted. The surrounding countryside where he grew up is as beautiful as any place in the world and he took full advantage of what nature was offering. He went to school barefoot in the Summertime, swam and fished in the streams and lakes, walked the hills with his young friends and as he grew older played his part in the work of the farms like all his immediate neighbours. In doing so, Michael experienced what "community" was about before he knew what the word meant or before Vatican 2 made such a fuss about it.
Football, the Gaelic version, was the game played by boys in the locality and the younger of the O'Donoghue brothers showed early promise and great interest. A promise that was fulfilled by some great displays for the SPA GAA Club during the 1960's and early'70's which was the most successful period in their history. He was strong and courageous and noted for his tenacity and loyalty. His great sense of fun and his infectious laugh which was to contribute so much to the Spirit of the Briars at Crich later, is well remembered by those team mates who never raised an eyebrow when he decided to become a priest and go to work in the Nottingham Diocese except to ask "Where in the name of God is Nottingham?". It speaks volumes about Michael and his Priesthood that 25 Years on they all still see him and treat him the same and will say "He is still the same person unaffected by the years and the Office and the Responsibilities of his Vocation".
The Six years he spent at All Hallows College in Dublin were important in his preparation for his life and work as a priest but the crucial formation was being done for years beforehand and he himself would be the first to acknowledge it. Every summer he goes home to recharge the batteries. While those who know him would say he is always a happy, cheerful person: they should really meet him in Killarney during the summer holiday when his exuberance knows no bounds. Then even a bad day on the golf course doesn't dampen his spirits.
His parents have gone to their Reward and the fact they will not be joining in the celebrations to mark his 25 years of Priesthood will be the only regret Michael and those who knew them will have. But they will be watching from another vantage point, with approval, and his Father's likely comment: "He's not doing too badly, down there" would be a typical O'Donoghue understatement.
"Killarney Priest Arrives in Rutland" - so the newspaper said in September 1970.
In the summer of 1970, writes Father Michael Lynch, I was informed by Bishop Ellis about my new appointment to the parish of Oakham. While on holiday in Longford during August, I was contacted by newly ordained priest, Father Michael O'Donoghue from Killarney, saying that he received a telegram from Monsignor Atkinson asking him to report to me at St. Helens, Oldcotes.
I assured him that there was no need to report to Oldcotes as I was leaving there and the parish would not warrant an assistant priest, but I did tell him that he should make plans to come to Oakham in September. Thus he gained a few more weeks of holiday to enjoy himself on the golf course in Killarney and in the meantime I took up my appointment in Oakham and awaited his arrival.
On a fine day in September I proceeded to East Midlands Airport to collect and meet for the first time the man from Tiernaboul. From the balcony I saw this young, handsome priest with his golf clubs approaching the terminal building. When he had collected his gear, I noticed that he already had in his possession a large umbrella, so I said to him "Are you expecting rain in Rutland or was it raining when you left Killarney?"
After introductions, which included Maureen who had prepared his room and a welcome to the presbytery for the new priest, we headed back to Oakham, the principal town of the old County of Rutland. The journey was a good opportunity of getting to know the young man and after many probing questions I thought to myself, "we're alright here!"
The County of Rutland was still a statutory authority at that time and had its own county council, education authority, constabulary etc. It was a unique and quite idyllic place with its lovely rural villages. The Catholic Parish covered the whole County of Rutland. Previously there had been two parishes in the county, one, St. Thomas of Canterbury at Exton, the other, St. Joseph & St. Edith at Oakham. Our job was to amalgamate the two parishes. Fr. Ainsworth was the Parish Priest at Oakham and Canon Adams the Parish Priest at Exton. Fr. Ainsworth had moved on to Bamford in Derbyshire and Canon Adams retired but continued to live in Exton. We were very much aware of his presence among us. Canon Adams was a convert and very traditional. He continued to take a great interest in the parish activities.
It was quite an extraordinary experience for two Irishmen to find themselves in the Heart of Old England and I must say, a very rewarding one. The Post Vatican II changes were beginning to come into being and I looked forward to the enlightenment provided by the young priest fresh from the seminary.
We were given the task of building a new church in Oakham and that gave us great motivation for the work ahead. In our journeys around the county, through picturesque villages discovering our flock, we received a great welcome and warm hospitality. Indeed Rutland Water now covers many of the lanes and roads that we travelled.
Fr. Michael's endearing smile won the hearts of all. Catholics and other denominations as well. He made an immense contribution towards the development of the parish. He visited the parishioners, brought a new life to the liturgies, and was socially orientated. He was a very loyal colleague and became very much part of my life during those years, and I am very happy to say has remained a great friend ever since. We linked up with many people through various social activities in the parish. One visit that had a sequel was a visit to a post-baptism party in Oldcotes for the child of Sean and Ann McCarthy. That visit paid dividends 23 years later when a horse called Fissure Seal won at Cheltenham, the price being 14-1. Sean and Ann now live in Ireland.
Fr Michael left Oakham just before the new church was completed and went to St. Albans, Chaddesden, Derby and from there to the Briars and later to St. Thomas More, Leicester. The rest is history and so now 25 years on I thank him for his friendship and support and offer him my heartiest congratulations on this milestone in his priestly life.
There are many other things not recorded in this article but we hope written in the Book of Life.
During Father Michael's six years as Assistant Priest at St. Alban's he soon became very popular with parishioners of all ages according to Derek & Loretta Hay.
A whole meeting of the Parish in February 1975 became the starting point for many developments in the Parish that included the laity in many leadership roles. For the young he ran a thriving youth club, and for the altar servers he organised and participated in football matches. He introduced "new style Masses" making the 9.30 Sunday Folk Mass a sharp contrast to the traditional 11 o'clock sung Mass.
In making arrangements for bands to come over from Ireland to perform for members of St. Alban's Social Club, he shared his enthusiasm and love for Irish music and culture. These "ceilidhs" became known as "Father Michael's dances" and attracted crowds of people. Father Michael made a lasting impact on parishioners of St. Alban's with his charm and friendly manner, and notably his smile of acknowledgement from the altar. This was reciprocated by a warm affection for him by the people, which coupled with the fatherly guidance of Monsignor McLean, must have prepared him well for his subsequent responsibilities and achievements.
"The importance of the apostrophe" by Maurice Cracknell
What a change of scene for Father Michael when he was moved in 1980 from being assistant priest in the city parish of St. Alban's, Chaddesden, Derby (population 3,000-odd) to be Director of The Briars at Crich (actual population half-a-dozen staff, floating population in the thousands). The latter were from schools and organisations throughout (and outside) the diocese anxious to enjoy the spiritual atmosphere created at the diocesan Residential Centre by Father Michael's predecessors, and which he set out to make available to a wider circle.
Everyone fortunate enough to have stayed at, or visited The Briars - "The Friendly Place" - has some anecdote or other to tell, some awakening to treasure some incident to laugh about.
Father Michael was to be responsible for activities for 11 happy years during which he saw three extensions come to fruition thanks to his ability to wheedle money out of local authorities, organisations and individuals.
Father Michael's laid-back attitude was deceptive for there were many times when he had to get a move on if an organised programme was to be carried out. All youngsters who have been passengers in The Briars' ageing minibus with Father at the wheel along the country lanes, which he got to know so well, will confirm this. On one such outing he came across two girls whose mini had broken down. His head was soon bowed down over the lifeless engine and his mechanical expertise enabled them to continue on their way. They could have had no inkling that the T-shirted man doing the RAC or AA out of a job was, in fact, a Catholic priest.
Perhaps he was slightly less adept at leading school parties on midnight hikes in the great outdoors, which are now enshrined in the television series Peak Practice. So far as is known, even though a few things went bump in the night, every member of the intrepid party returned safely to the haven of the Briars. As previously indicated, Father Michael's influence at The Briars was widely felt. Indeed, on golf courses up and down the land, there are probably young players intent on lowering their handicap who learned the rudiments of their game from a priest who packed his clubs with his vestments. His instructions on preparation for the priesthood might well begin with tips on how to address the ball - and a demonstration on a bit of greensward adjoining the historic Wingfield Manor, one of the stately homes where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned.
Introductions by and to newcomers to The Briars usually included a dissertation on the importance of the apostrophe in the surname O'Donoghue, and the spelling could be checked on a family coat of arms on the staircase leading to Father's flat.
Mention of how television has helped to put Crich more firmly on the map is a reminder that the same medium made Father Michael much more than a local or diocesan figure. A Central TV Sunday religious programme took viewers behind the scenes at The Briars. It included the emotionally charged farewell ceremonies as a stay by young people came to an end. Prayers by candlelight were punctuated by the sound of sobbing as young people said goodbye to the host of friends they had made at the Friendly Place.
Those of us who would love to be able to make sense of architect's drawings could do worse, even now, than have a word with Father Michael who had to interpret plans for extensions and alterations to The Briars at the same time as he was appealing for financing. Just as you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs, some chaos is inevitable when big booted builders invade your tranquillity. However, Father Michael and his dedicated team (some of them former students at The Briars) triumphed over the inconveniences, which is of great benefit to today's visitors. The Princess Royal opened the extensions, an occasion which provided more media coverage for Father Michael.
He is beloved in the minds of irreverent youth in another way - of which he is probably unaware, because there was much amusement when he strolled about The Briars in conversation with another priest from our diocese.
Father Michael would be the first to admit that he his hardly the tallest priest in the diocese. That distinction must go to Father Brendan O'Sullivan, now parish priest at Boston and at one time chaplain to catechetical camps held at the Briars by the Catholic Women's League, and who is about 6ft. 5in. Young people in their care dubbed the pair as the Little and Large show!
"Arrival in Knighton" by Sister Ethna McGrath OSC
By 18th September 1991 an air of gloom had settled over St. Thomas More's. The impending exodus i.e. the departure of Canon Shaw, Fr. Mark Casey and Nora Hill had proved too much. However, at exactly 9.06 on the evening of that same day a joyful sound was heard on Knighton Road as honking horns announced the arrival of the new Parish Priest. A mini convoy was heading for the car park and Fr. Michael's radiant smile as he took a right turn into Southernhay Road put a bit of cheer into my sad heart. Naturally those who had known him over a long period of time were delighted to see him.
Not all the luggage had arrived at 9.00pm - the next delivery was at 12.15am! This time, alerted by Neighbourhood Watch, some members of our ever-ready police force found the welcoming party. No less than six police vans sped towards no. 75. Puzzled by all the activity and convinced that burglars were making the most of an opportune time to seize some valuable items they surrounded the building. Fr. Gregory Tobin became suspect no.1 as he reversed the Briars minibus into the yard.
Needless to say some explanation had to be given. The not guilty plea was accepted and so our new pastor could avail himself of accommodation in the Presbytery rather than in Welford Road.
Fr. Michael came to Leicester with what could be described as a Franciscan aim - to build the Church - not with bricks and mortar but with people. All along the Parish Community has been his main concern, parish visiting started the day after his arrival. Since then he has continued to serve with great zeal and self sacrifice bringing his own special charism to enrich peoples' lives.
"Indeed we are alright" by The Reverend Deacon John Tear
Really further comment is superfluous, the previous paragraph sums it up very nicely. From his very first day Father Michael has worked long and hard in his role as our Parish Priest. Extremely conscientious in his care for all, from the very young to the oldest, never sparing himself in visiting, always ready to make time to talk to anyone who needs his counsel. He never fails to consult parishioners about ideas he has for the parish, as is evidenced by the setting up of the Parish Ministerial Team to deal with every aspect of Parish life. It is a tribute to him that the enthusiasm and dedication which he showed in his first appointment at Oakham twenty five years ago is just as fresh and undiminished now, indeed it is even greater. We can do no more than echo Father Lynch's comments when he first met him - "we're alright here!" Indeed we are alright, it is a privilege to work with Father Michael here at the St. Thomas More Parish.
"The Knighton Nineties" by Helena Baron
Disbelief, despondency, and despair rocked St Thomas More’s Parish in July 2000 when news broke of FR Michael’s impending departure to Lincoln. Plans quickly began, however, to mark Fr Michael’s nine years in the parish, culminating in a Goodbye Mass celebrated on Sep 30th. This liturgy and subsequent party underlined the vibrant spirituality and active caring of the people nurtured and developed by Fr Michael.
From September 1991 Fr Michael quickly endeared himself to the people of Knighton thanks to his personal charm, charisma, and dedication. Care for the individual, from the youngest to the oldest, was a hallmark of his ministry. Three parish missions in Nine years strengthened the sacramental life of the parish. Children in the school, enjoying the interest that he took in their individual stories, eagerly anticipated his visits across the road Parishioners looked forward to the weekly sports report preceding the six o’clock mass on Saturday. Visitors to the presbytery could not fail to notice the ever increasing silverware highlighting Fr Michael’s success at and love of golf. Through the youth group meeting on a Sunday evening Fr Michael extended his influence upon and his concern for young people. An important feature of the 11o’clock mass was the development of the children’s liturgy. The ‘Drop-Ins’ on a Thursday morning delighted in Fr Michael’s rapport with them, enjoying his warm smile from the altar and his stories at coffee.
- In 1993 John Tear (RIP) was ordained to the permanent diaconate, becoming FR Michael’s right hand man. Sadly Deacon John died the night before Fr Michael left for Lincoln.
- Chris O’Connor was ordained to the priesthood in 1995. Chris spoke movingly at the Goodbye Mass of Fr Michael being ‘his priest’; someone he could always turn to.
- The Parish was privileged to be able to share in Fr Michael’s Silver Jubilee Celebration, also in 1995. This is documented elsewhere but the uplifting mass presided over by the Bishop cannot go unmentioned.
- St Thomas More Primary School developed apace during the last decade of the millennium. Numbers expanded, a new classroom was built and the school appeared in the Times Top 100 Primary schools. Fr Michael played an active role as Chairman of Governors encouraging staff and students to strive for the ideal of Catholic education.
- An ambitious re-ordering of the church took place in 1996 and its calm, its beauty, and its atmosphere of prayer immediately strikes anyone now entering the Church.
- A Parish Ministerial Team continued and developed the work of many already established parish groups. This team continues to meet regularly, carrying on the challenge of active Christianity placed before us by Fr Michael. The Parish Centre, built as part of the Church re-ordering project, is a hive of activity most evenings.
- At the end of June 2000 the Parish gathered for an outdoor mass to mark the millennium. The Jubilee celebrations had begun with a powerful liturgy on New Year’s Eve when the message of Jesus Christ, Yesterday, Today, and Forever was proclaimed. The outdoor mass, attended by over 600 parishioners, was followed by a parish picnic. Renewal of our Jubilee Promises led to thanksgiving for the many blessings bestowed on the people of Knighton.
The stardust sprinkled by the children, as a sign of prophecy at the Goodbye Mass remains firmly embedded in the carpet, resisting all attempts by vacuum cleaners to remove it. The Parish Mission is equally firmly embedded. Inspired by Fr Michael we continue to try in our small way ‘to achieve great things for God’. Fr Michael shared in our lives listening to and holding our personal stories. He became a friend and counsellor to many people supporting us in time of sorrow and sharing in our joy. Fr Michael’s energy, commitment, and smile have left a lasting mark in Leicester. No doubt the leadership of this deeply spiritual priest will similarly inspire the people of Lincoln.
"And – which is more – you’ll be the Parish Priest of Ss Peter and Paul’s..." By S Gilluly
It seems appropriate to say a little about Fr Michael’s arrival in the parish of Ss Peter and Paul, Lincoln. On reading the previous account concerning the farewell Mass at St Thomas More’s and remembering that Fr Michael’s first sight of his new parish church was a church covered in dust from the long delayed work on the entrance to the Church, the famous poem by Rudyard Kipling came to mind:
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same
Fr Michael arrived in the parish on Friday, 13th October 2000 and will be welcomed as our ‘new’ Parish Priest on 2nd May 2001. Since arriving, he has seen the Church transformed from a place of worship masquerading as a building site to a place of worship of which the parish can be proud. A totally ramped front entrance now leads to a welcoming red carpet that softens the décor and lightens the spirit. But of more importance to our new parish priest is the community of which he has now become part for as long as there is work to be done. Small changes that are visibly noticeable are the involvement of the young footsteps children around the altar at the 11am Sunday morning masses and the change from a small Parish Council to a Parish Ministerial Team, a change of name that reflects how it is hoped the group will come to function. All changes and developments take time. The parish of Ss Peter and Paul is one of the largest in the diocese and the ministry of the parish priest must reach to all sections of the community, from the richest to the poorest, those who come to worship at the church to those who have not been for a while (or possibly not at all), to the pupils and their families of the primary and secondary schools in the parish, and those women currently being held at HMP Morton Hall. Sometimes, then, I wonder if these lines from the poem are also applicable:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them ‘hold on’.
Fr Michael Lynch (also referred to in previous accounts) has retired to the parish and helps with some of the Masses and Fr Michael is still playing golf on Tuesdays (so things can’t be that bad!). Over the years the parish has developed many groups of lay people working together to bring the Word of God alive to those around them (see the Parish Organisation page). With the help of these groups, the parish will continue to grow and develop as a community founded on the love and compassion of God – as for our new parish priest, one line from the poem that needs no ‘If’ is:
All…… count with you, but none too much
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be the parish priest of Ss Peter and Paul’s my son!