Ireland: Bishop Seamus Hegarty has died

Bishop Seamus Hegarty

Bishop Seamus Hegarty

Source: Irish Catholic Bishops Conference

The Diocese of Derry has announced the death of Seamus Hegarty, Bishop Emeritus of Derry and former Bishop of Raphoe, who died after an illness in Letterkenny University Hospital, Co Donegal.

Séamus Hegarty born 26 January 1940 in Kilcar, Co Donegal. He received his early education in Kilcar National School, Saint Eunan's College, Letterkenny, and Saint Patrick's College, Maynooth, which he attended from 1959 to 1966. He graduated in Celtic Studies and was fluent in Irish, English and German. He was ordained to the priesthood at Saint Patrick's College on 19 June 1966. He taught in Saint Eunan's College and Colaiste na Croise Naofa, Falcarragh, where he later became President (1971-1981).

Prior to his appointment as bishop he served as curate in Stranorlar. Bishops Séamus was appointed as Bishop of the Diocese of Raphoe on 12 February 1982. His episcopal ordination took place at Saint Eunan's Cathedral, Letterkenny, on 28 March 1982. Following the resignation of Bishop Edward Daly on 26 October 1993, Bishop Séamus was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Derry on 1 October 1994 and was installed at Saint Eugene's Cathedral on 6 November 1994.

On 7 November 2011, Bishop Séamus issued a statement saying that, having been diagnosed with "a condition which is, unfortunately, irreversible and progressive", he had submitted his resignation because he was no longer able to fulfil his role as diocesan bishop. On 23 November 2011 the Holy See announced his resignation had been accepted. May he rest in peace while he awaits the glory of the Resurrection.

Archbishop Eamon Martin said in a statement:

'I am saddened to hear of the death of Bishop Séamus Hegarty. The news came during a meeting of the Irish bishops and we prayed for the happy repose of his soul and for the comfort of his family and close friends.

Speaking as President of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, I wish to acknowledge the contribution of Bishop Hegarty to the work and outreach of the Conference over thirty years - first as Bishop of Raphoe, and then as Bishop of Derry. He was an active member of the Commission for Education in NI and on the Council for European Affairs, but what stands out is his dedication to the plight of Irish emigrants and their families, and his response to Irish prisoners overseas. Bishop Hegarty often intervened at conference meetings to draw attention to the personal, social and economic challenges facing emigrants, and he supported efforts to raise vital funds for the mission to those who face challenges far from home.

On a more personal level, I am grateful to Bishop Séamus for his encouragement and support to me as my bishop in Derry from 1994 until his retirement in 2011. He was unstinting in his support for my role as teacher and President of Saint Columb's College. Having been a school principal himself for many years, he was passionate about the importance of education for young people and he had a strong awareness of the issues facing school staff and managers. He worked tirelessly to secure the new school sites for girls' post-primary education in the City of Derry and to ensure that the very best facilities were being made available for our young people. When he came to Derry, he often spoke lovingly of his native Donegal, yet he quickly made many friends among the parishioners of the Diocese of Derry, including among the Irish language community - he was a native speaker himself. Bishop Séamus was strongly pro-life and he was always anxious as a faith leader to nurture the fledgling peace process.

On behalf of the Bishops' Conference I express my sympathies to the family of Bishop Hegarty, to Josie, his beloved housekeeper and carer, to the priests of the Diocese of Derry and to Bishop Donal McKeown as well as to his many friends in Raphoe Diocese. I invite the faithful to pray for the repose of Bishop Hegarty's soul at this time.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Bishop Donal McKeown sent the following tribute: "Following the death yesterday of Bishop Séamus Hegarty, Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry said, "even though Bishop Séamus Hegarty had been in declining health for a number of years, it was with sadness that I heard about his death. As Bishop of Derry, he was the successor to Bishop Edward Daly, and Bishop Séamus served this diocese from 1994 -2011, although I was not appointed to the Diocese of Derry until 2014. Bishop Séamus had an impressive dedication to his role as a priest and bishop, with a special expertise in education. His concern for Irish emigrants around the world was constant and heartfelt. Ar dheis De go raibh anam."

Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ wrote: "It was with sadness that the bishops, priests and people of the Diocese of Raphoe heard of the death yesterday afternoon, Friday, 20 September, of Bishop Séamus Hegarty. A native of the Parish of Kilcar, Bishop Hegarty served the diocese for many years as priest and bishop.

Bishop Hegarty had a long episcopal ministry. He was ordained Bishop of Raphoe on 28 March 1982 and was subsequently appointed Bishop of Derry in 1994. His ministry as bishop was deeply challenged. During those years there was the tragedy of serious crimes of child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests in the diocese. Bishop Hegarty was challenged about his management of those situations. Addressing failures on his own part, Bishop Hegarty asked for forgiveness from those who suffered cruelly. Following his resignation in 2011 on grounds of ill-health, he stated, "I am deeply sorry that anyone was hurt through my management of allegations historically."

The Diocese of Raphoe offers sincere sympathies to all those who loved Bishop Hegarty and grieve his passing.

Leaba i measc na Naomh go raibh aige.

Tags: Bishop Seamus Hegarty

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