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Thomas O'Donnell WF 1920 2004
|HOMILY FOR THE FUNERAL OF FATHER THOMAS
Preston, 6 September 2004
The readings chosen for this Eucharist, in which we celebrate the life of your cousin, Gertrude, our confrere and beloved friend Thomas ODonnell, would seem to reflect something of his life and character. You would not look for Tod (as we all knew him) in palaces, or expect to find him dressed in fine clothes. His gaunt figure could indeed call to mind John the Baptist, or perhaps a milder version of the great Precursor. For Tod, though he could be firm, had nothing fiery about him. He did not berate people, but rather encouraged them. He exemplified the qualities of the Servant of whom the Prophet Isaiah speaks. He did not raise his voice; he did not crush the bruised reed. He was in fact the servant who spent himself so that others might have life, and have it in abundance.
(photo source : Fr Peter Smith MAfr, UK Provincial)
It may surprise some of us to learn that Tom was born in Canada, in Saskatchawan, of a Scots-Irish father and a mother from Lancashire, in fact from Preston. It was in Canada that he was baptized, made his first communion and was confirmed. But after the death of his father, his mother returned to England with her son. There will be mention later of his Canadian accent, different, but not unpleasant. He was soon to follow his missionary vocation, as also did his first cousin, Brother Kevin Corbishley.
The years of formation are not usually significant, but for Tod it is necessary to mention them. After a time at Autreppe, in Belgium, he went with the rest of the British and Irish philosophers to Kerlois, in Brittany. It was the time of the outbreak of war, but it was felt that Brittany was remote enough to be safe. No need to take the British and Irish to the UK. Alas, the Germans came, and this meant for Tod and his companions four years of internment at Saint-Denis, near Paris. Four wasted years, one could say, and yet this group of young men, marked by this experience of making the best of adversity, turned out to be a special class of wonderful missionaries.
I often wonder what the further years of formation, novitiate and theology, must have been like, tame perhaps after the camp, but they led to ordination to the priesthood at Monteviot, in Scotland, in 1948. Tods practical bent had been noticed, and he was immediately appointed bursar, at the Priory, then in the philosophy house in Dorking, and finally at the junior seminary in St Boswells where he became superior. It was at the Priory that I first met Tod, and I remember playing table-tennis against him in a competition where he gave no quarter.
The reports from these years are glowing. Tod is described as humble, lovable, with outstanding moral qualities. He was noted for sound judgement, a sterling character. It was said that he would fit in anywhere, and be an asset to any community. As a superior he commanded not only respect, but also love something rare in fact. There was perhaps one defect: he was indeed too good; he could not say no. This is something that would be remarked of him later, during his time in Africa.
For eventually, after twelve years at the service of the Province, Tod was able to fulfil his dream and go to Africa. Unusual for the British at that time, he was sent to French-speaking West Africa, to what is now Burkina Faso. He was to spend the next sixteen years in the diocese of Koudougou.
Incidentally, had Father Tom died in Burkina, and were the funeral taking place in that country, his coffin would probably have been tossed in the air several times, as a sign of joy for a long life lived well. We shall do not do that here but, at the Consecration, there will be a drum roll instead of bells, the sound of the tam-tam, to remind us of Africa.
After a few years in the cathedral parish, he was appointed to the Junior Seminary where his past experience stood him in good stead. He won the confidence of all, both staff and students. Even more than that, he won the confidence of the bishop and was made Vicar General, a post he would occupy for eleven years. This was no sinecure. Mgr Bayala became paralysed, but still stayed on as bishop. Tod had to be the arms and the legs of the bishop, carrying out all the difficult missions, such as conveying to priests the news of unwelcome changes of appointment. He did this with his usual goodness, kindness and understanding, and with great discretion. It is perhaps true to say that because of his gentleness, and because of his influence in the diocese, he was able to carry out this task with great success. I met him in Burkina at that time, thin as a rake but cheerful. He was aptly described by someone as a reed that sways in the wind, but does not break. An auxiliary bishop had just been appointed, and this signalled the end of this period of Tods missionary work.
The many years of tireless activity, a true John the Baptist, efficient but self-effacing, had taken their toll. Tod, although he was no yes-man, and often argued with the bishop over policy, had never been able to say no to the tasks the bishop entrusted him with. He was worn out. After a long period of rest he was able to return to Burkina, where he had been appointed Episcopal Vicar for the women religious. He was to help them, but they were actually asked to keep an eye on his health. During this time he spent himself in the service of the sick for whom he had a special love. But it could not last. At the end of 1986 Tod had to return to the UK. He worked for a few years in the multi-ethnic parish in Southall, and then in 1990 he came home to Preston where he remained until his death. You will be more familiar than myself of his activity in these last years, going around on his bicycle, visiting the sick, being ready to do supplies, welcoming visitors to the house. He was not a retired missionary who would grow fat in his later years. He was always a servant of his beloved Lord.
Tod was a practical Christian. He would surely have been happy with the answer Jesus gave to the messengers from John the Baptist. Jesus did not say let John listen to my preaching, but rather tell him what I am doing: the lame walk, the sick are cured and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Tod was not always talking about his faith, but he lived it. To be able to do this for over eighty years he must have derived strength from his intimacy with the Lord he loved, whose faithful servant he was.
In a letter written some time ago, Tod left provision for Masses to be celebrated after his death. Typically, they were not for himself, but for his friends, in thanksgiving for their faithful friendship. He would have include among this number his marraine de guerre, a French lady who helped him and the other White Father internees in the camp at Saint-Denis. Tod had always maintained contact with her. But there were countless other friends too, many of them here in this city of Preston.
We are celebrating this Mass for Tod himself, recommending him to the Mercy of God, but let us also give thanks for his wonderful life and example. May this John the Baptist who has led so many people to Christ, continue to lead us to unite ourselves in word and action with the One who has given his life for us. And may the faithful servant receive the reward he deserves.
The following information was gleaned from http://www.africamission-mafr.org , with apologies for any mistakes in the translation.
with affection Eugene MacBride (December
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Mary of Walsingham WS (Mary Potts) 1917 2004
An appreciation of her life by John Morton, friend and former WF student
I first met Mary about fifteen years ago during one of my regular visits to St.Mawgan and Lanherne.Her family were, of course, well known in the village having moved from Newcastle in the late forties.Her sister Margaret had entered the convent at Lanherne but she had to leave due to ill health.
Mary joined the White Sisters (Missionaries of Africa) before the beginning of the Second World War and was professed as a nun at Heston Middlesex in 1940. Her first appointment was to Algeria in North Africa. She worked among some of the poorest people, living close to the desert for about eight years. She had to speak French all the time and endure the extremes of the climate. It was a testing time for her.
In 1949 she returned to England for a short while and was then sent to the White Sister's house in Washington. Mary became Novice Mistress initially and then Mother Provincial for the Order in the U.S.A. It was during this time that Mary took her first degree in Theology at Washington University. I remember how important these studies were for her and many years later she remembered how excited she was to be challenged intellectually.
Whilst in the U.S.A.she met a number of interesting people including Bishop Fulton Sheen (see left ) and Cardinal Spellman.She enjoyed her work in the States and.made many new friends.
In the early sixties she was recalled to England and sent to The School of Oriental and African Studies, at London University, to complete an M.A. in Comparative Religion. It was at this time that her parents in St. Mawgan were becoming frail and unwell so Mary decided to withdraw from the White Sisters Community to look after them.
Then began her second ministry in the village and surrounding district where she became well known for her kindness and unfailing charity to those in need. In her twilight years she retained her love of Theology and enjoyed interacting with people of divergent view s. She loved a good discussion.
Her deep spirituality, nurtured all those years ago by th White Sisters, remained with her throughout her long life. She was always true to her vocation. It was fitting therefore, that her funeral took place on the Feast of St.Therese of Lisieux, Patroness of Missionaries, who showed a particular interest in the work of the White Fathers and White Sisters in Africa. She has now gone home to the Lord whom she served so well.
MAY SHE REST IN PEACE
Note : Sister Mary contributed many pictures to the section which deals with the history of Heston Parish Church some of which are of her and her family. Click here to go directly to the relevant Page.
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26th September 1951 22nd August 1994
Taken from The Guardian
May he Rest in Peace
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|Father John McNulty 1919 2004
Taken from The Scottish Catholic Observer, January 2005
Fr John McNulty has died at the age of 85, having served 63 years as a White Father. (Thursday, 23rd December)
Fr McNulty attended St Patrick's Primary and *Our Lady's High School in Motherwell before left his home in Shieldmuir, Lanarkshire in 1936 to study for the priesthood at the White Father's college In Belgium. He was sent to Tunisia when the war broke out and was ordained in Carthage on April 1942.
Fr McNulty spent 20 years in West Africa in Ghana and Uganda helping to build schools and hospitals. One of his greatest legacies is that in 1956 he launched Africa's first credit union in Jirapa, Ghana, which eventually spread to 21 African countries. The credit union provided cheap loans for Africans who would not have received loans from other financial institutions.
He also spent 25 years in Rome at the headquarters of the missionary society as a senior adviser.
In 1982 he returned to Scotland to the White Fathers' residence in Rutherglen where he lived until his death.
In May 1992, Archbishop Thomas Winning of Glasgow and Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell joined in Fr McNulty's Golden Jubilee celebrations in St Patrick's Shieldmuir when the parishioners of his home parish presented him with the gift of a trip back to the mission in Tamale, Ghana that he had founded 50 years previously.
He was also guest of honour at a Civic Lunch organised by Motherwell District Council to mark his Golden Jubilee.
Fr McNulty's funeral Mass was celebrated in St Columbkilles, Rutherglen.
*There was a great missionary spirit in Our Ladys High School in Motherwell at that time . . . the school being the Alma Mater of Fathers Tommy Duffy, Jack Bradley, Jack Robinson, John McNulty, Jimmy Tolmie, Joe Rice and Frank Briody, Pat Donnelly, to mention just White Fathers . . . (Taken from Fr Pat Donnelly's Obituary)
The following is taken from
The White Fathers' International Website:
|Nationality : British
||Allied Invasion >
||Local Treasurer, Scholast
||Studies|| Manchester Univ.
||Arrives + taken to
|| St Gallen
||Returned to The Lord (85)
Gerry Wynne 1937 2004
From this distance, adjustments to life in Dublin seem to have been
straight forward. But it was his rugged streak of determination with
a leaven of arrogance, which now served him well. Together he and Anne
made things work. With some assistance from family and friends they
|Memories of Ged
by Eugene MacBride
I first met Ged Wynne (we all called him Ged and never Gerry) at St Columba's in March 1950. Under Pat Boyd, he was the college organist and one of the six prefects (Hamilton, Hickey, Shields, Hynes, Fahy and Wynne) of whom four are now dead). There were empowered in those old days to use a tawse! It was in my time there that Ged had his strap stolen and cut into pieces by Bill Sullivan. I think his was the last of prefects' belts to survive before Sullivan got at it.
When Mike Fitzgerald (now Archbishop) arrived at St Columba's in April 1950, it was only Ged could give him a game of chess.
Ged took over from Leslie Croaghan as organist at the Priory. The odd thing is, I never associate him with organ practice. I suppose he must have practised but I have no memory of it.
Ged developed into a big, solid lad who started to play a lot of football but was never fast enough for his favourite position at full-back. I can't remember the context but one day during a Maths lesson or after it, Fr Dickson bellowed at him as only Dickie could: "Wynne, are you bottom-heavy?!"
My main memory of Ged is the 5th Sunday after Easter (Vocem Iucunditatis Annuntiate) at Blacklion when we opened the refurbished chuch at Glenfarne. We all trooped up into the organ loft to sing the Mass as only WF students could but the organ would not play. Ged had to get down under it and fiddle until a last he could get some music for the choir. In my book it was his finest hour.
We were in the noviciate together at 'sHeerenberg and then Ged moved on to North Africa to do his Theology with Mike Fitzgerald. I was at his ordination at St Columba's on 1 February 1961.
Requiescat in pace