A personal statement from Bishop Paul Swarbrick on hearing of the death of Bishop emeritus Padraig O’Donoghue on 24th January 2021.

Yesterday we learnt of the death of Bishop Padraig O’Donoghue. He died peacefully in Nazareth House, Mallow, Co.Cork, Ireland, having retired there after his years as Bishop of Lancaster (2001 – 2009). May he rest in the Lord’s peace.The Requiem Mass will take place on Tuesday 26th January 2021 in the church of St.Michael the Archangel, Analeentha, within his original home parish of Mourneabbey, Co.Cork. He had expressed this wish to be buried near his parents, graves. His wish was for simplicity and home, where he’d started from.Bishop William Crean of Cloyne Diocese will preside. The Mass will not be open to the public due to the strict Covid measures we are all currently subject to. However, it is possible to share the Mass online with access found via www.rip.ie .

I have spoken with members of Bishop Padraig’s family, with Bishop Crean and with Donna McNamara the Director of nursing at Nazareth House, assuring them of our prayers in their grief and thanking them for the care they gave Padraig, especially over more recent months when his health began to deteriorate rapidly.On Tuesday I will celebrate a requiem Mass for Bishop Padraig at 12.15pm in the Cathedral. I am grateful to Father Pearson for facilitating this at such short notice.

Under current restrictions it is difficult to plan a fitting Diocesan public Mass to thank God for the ministry of Bishop Padraig as our Bishop, but we should do something. In the next few days we will consider what might be possible.A Bishop reveals the heart of his ministry in his Episcopal motto and coat of arms. Bishop Padraig’s coat of arms carries the shepherd’s crook, the pelican feeding her young on her own flesh, the Lancashire rose, the image of Our Lady of Furness, the Book of the Gospels and three flames denoting the Most Holy Trinity and the fire of Pentecost. His motto simply states from the Beatitudes, ‘Blessed are the poor’.He came as a stranger to the north-west of England, but he was no stranger to Christ, to the poor in spirit, or to hard work. His love for Our Blessed Lord and the Church shone through his years with us. His love for his flock, especially those in most need, was obvious to all.During his years in Lancaster he took on what a Bishop of lesser calibre might be tempted to leave for his successor to tackle. He sold the vast old episcopal house on Cannon Hill, opting for much simpler rooms within the Cathedral complex. He brought to light and tackled the infamous financial ‘Black-hole’ within the Diocese. He would not accept the Diocesan Caring Services compromising Catholic teaching and practice. He undertook a comprehensive Diocesan consultation for mission followed by starting its implementation. He sought and welcomed expatriate Religious and clergy into the Diocese. He did much more for the benefit of the Diocese and the care of the poor in spirit for whom he held a particular devotion.

I am aware of those within the Diocese who had the good fortune of working especially closely with Bishop Padraig. Yours will be a deeper grief through your knowledge and love of the man, but you will lighten your load by your affection and Faith. More broadly, all who had the privilege of knowing him and enjoying his company, even for just a short time, could not fail to be touched and encouraged and inspired by him. He was a true blessing from God, from Westminster and from Ireland.Only weeks before he died he was able to see the completion of his last great personal project, the publishing of a book based on his ‘Life Stories’ assisted by Paul O’Kelly-Lynch. Having spoken with his family, I hope to arrange for a good number of copies to be made available here in Lancaster. Towards the end of his work is the following quote;

“If I were asked what I’d view as my greatest legacy in life, then I would have to say that it was my work in helping to establish ‘The Passage’ in Westminster. I would like to think that this action, in essence, sums up my work in the Church. I viewed myself as a simple priest who had a great desire to help my fellow man, to try to make a difference in people’s lives.”The Lord is good. Four days before he died I phoned Drommahane and was able to have the briefest of conversations with him, assuring him of our love and prayers from Lancaster. I know I speak for Bishop Campbell too when I say that Bishop Padraig left an example that was an inspiration to follow. He has shown us the way to the Father, and encouraged us to be joyful even in these darkest of days. He completed his life on earth on the Feast of St.Francis de Sales, an outstanding pastor of souls, and under the care of St.Joseph, to whom we look for the grace of a happy death.Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon him. May he rest in peace, Amen.

 

+Paul Swarbrick.

Bishop of Lancaster.