Someone who seemed invincible, is how former Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy described his friend and colleague Fr Gearoid O Donnchadha whose funeral mass took place in Churchill today.
The mass was celebrated by Bishop Ray Browne and Fr Eamon Mulvihil of Churchill and was attended by Archbishop Dermot Clifford and many of the priests of the diocese, as well as friends ordained with him. Fr Gearoid lost his live in a fire at his home in Fenit in the early hours of Monday morning. Sailing and lifeboat equipment, a replica statue of St Brendan, his daily missal, a stone from Iona in Scotland to where he often sailed, his doctorate and a Kerry jersey were among the gifts brought to the altar in the Church of the Purification in Churchill to symbolise Fr Gearoid life. Former Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy told the overflowing church that it was hard to associate Fr Gearoid with death as he had an adventurous spirit, a never say die attitude and he would never give up. He said that it had taken circumstances beyond Fr Gearoid’s control to end it. He said he had lived a varied and multifaceted life and his determination had seen him cross the Atlantic twice in a boat and erect a statue to his hero St Brendan. He noted Fr Gearoid’s commitment to daily mass and said it was fitting that his last act as a priest was to celebrate Mass in the parish and community he held so close.
Fr Gearoid’s nephew Risteard Pierse described his uncle as tough and stubborn but also caring and a great listener, an academic who was also a doer. He said he gave great sermons – which could all be summarised in 3 words – love one another. Referring to a book Fr Gearoid was in the process of completing on quantum physics and the church – he said its message could be summarised much easier – we must recognise our dependence on each other, and accept everybody.
A guard of honour was provided by members of Fenit RNLI and the Irish Coastguard, and as Fr Gearoid was laid to rest in the church grounds – flares were launched in his honour in Tralee Bay.