Fr Daniel O'Leary RIP + update on Irish funeral details

  • Jo Siedlecka

Tributes have been pouring in to Fr Daniel O'Leary who died on Monday, 21 January. He is survived by his brother Michael and sister Maureen. In a note, the Association of Catholic Priests, in Ireland, said Fr Daniel had been ill since June last year. "He has approached his journey with cancer with deep faith and immense courage" they wrote. "The end came more suddenly than expected, leaving us shocked and saddened.

"He was a very gracious and gifted person and we will all have special memories of him and treasure them. We are the better for his kindness, his humour, his wisdom and his undying belief in an incarnate God whose name is Love. We give thanks for the many ways he has touched our lives. Please remember him and his family in your prayers."

A priest of the Diocese of Leeds, Fr Daniel was also an author and teacher. Born in 1937, in Rathmore, Co Kerry, he studied at All Hallows College, Dublin. He worked in parishes for almost 30 years as a Curate and then Parish Priest. For another 20 years he taught Theology and Religious Education at St Mary's University College in London, and became chair of its Religious Studies department, before being appointed Episcopal Vicar for Christian Formation in Leeds until 2000.

Fr Daniel held Masters degrees in theology, spirituality and religious education. An award-winning author of 12 books, he was a regular contributor to the Tablet, the Irish Furrow and other publications, He also gave conferences and retreats to parishioners, teachers, catechists, head-teachers, priests and Diocesan RE Advisers around the country and internationally.

Diana Klein who edited Parish Practice at the Tablet writes: "I am blessed to have been able to call myself a friend of Daniel (Donal) O'Leary. I have prayed with him, cried with him, laughed with him and I've learned from him. His phrase 'begin with the heart' (which is also the title of one of his books) has made a deep impression on me. It's the basis of this creative and dynamic vision that transforms us. The book tells parents, teachers, catechists and friends how to unfold the life of faith in each other through the awareness of the power of love that we find in our hearts. How many times he talked about the importance of listening 'with the ear of our heart' and seeing with 'the eye of our heart' - which he called the sacramental vision of how we notice the presence of God in our lives. What a very special man and what a privilege to have known him.

Former students from St Mary's write:

"Donal O'Leary was my spiritual guide whilst a student at Simms, 74 - 77, and he was a great comfort and inspiration. He also introduced me to the Voluntary Missionary Movement, where I spent two and half years teaching in Tanzania the year after qualifying. Others who were greatly influenced by him, if only through VMM, were Mark Wigan, Pauline Clark and Mary Kennedy. A very forward thinking guy who helped me stay with a church I felt little connection with. Greatly inspired and missed by hundreds of people over the years." Mike Baldwin

"I knew Fr Donal O'Leary between 1974 and 1977 at St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill as my subsidiary RE lecturer. He was inspirational, kind, had a great sense of humour and was human! I have read a couple of his books recently and have been once again inspired by them. May Fr Donal O'Leary rest in peace and may God comfort his family and friends. Nuala Courtney-Diggins

"I was very sad to hear of the death of Father Donal O'Leary. We met at college in 1975-76. Elaine and myself asked for 'Donal' to marry us in the college crypt. A little bit sensitive (to us!) because he was not the chaplain of the college! It was not until some 25 years later that the now Fr Donald O'Leary was in front of us both, giving a very inspirational and positive talk on relationships and how they may differ from the conventional views of Catholic marriage (my uptake on his positive talk!). This talk took place at Sketty in Swansea to Menevia Diocesan Family Ministry! God Bless you Donal and thank you for your connections to me and my wife Elaine." Gerry Reynolds

"I was at St. Mary's College 1972-75. Fr Donal was the warden of Graham Hall and I, together with a group of good college friends, got to know him really well over the three years we were together. Fr Donal was a great man - an advisor, confidant but above all: a good friend. I remember Fr Donal and group of us had golf lessons on Sundays and usually went for a beer afterwards. The beer was great but I wish I could say the same for the golf! May he rest in peace." Steve O'Connell

Many parishioners from St Wilfrid's Catholic Church Ripon have written condolence messages on their parish Facebook page.

"A man of the people, not just one faith. I will always remember his chats about nothing in particular. Just chats with a smile making you feel worthy." Alan Matthew

"I will miss him in his passing as I have missed him since he left Ripon, good night goodly father, hope the altitude is not too bad for you. My comment on the altitude was from when he made the sermon in the cathedral, he was verged to the steps of the pulpit, took a long time to walk up and grabbed the top, looked around the congregation very slowly, breathing deeply, composed himself and then said, forgive me, I'm trying to get used to the altitude. I will never forget that moment. Bless him." Jim Vauvert

"Undoubtedly one of the great priests of the Diocese of Leeds. Our loss is Heaven's gain." David Murray

"One of the most inspirational and wonderful people I have ever known." Joanne Wallace

A Vigil Mass for Fr O'Leary was held at St Helen's Church in Crosby on Tuesday evening. His Funeral Mass will take place today at St Helen's Church at 12.30pm today.

A Requiem Mass for Fr O'Leary will be held on Thursday 7 February at 1pm in Rathmore Church,Rathmore, Co Kerry. His asshes will be brought home to his birthplace by his sister Maura and his brother Fr Micheal O'Leary.

Tags: Fr Daniel O'Leary

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