Fr. Philip Donnelly ‘lived his life for God, family, his people and loved a little red wine’
Clergy from around the Derry Diocese gathered in Feeny last week for the funeral Mass of the late Fr. Philip Donnelly.
Born in Portrush, the well known and respected cleric (pictured below) was buried at Foreglen on his birthday, when he would have been 93.
Approximately 70 priests gathered for the Mass, celebrated by Right Rev. Mgr. Eamon Martin, Diocesan Administrator, and attended by retired Bishops Daly, Lagan and Hegarty.
In his homily, Gortin Parish Priest Fr. John Forbes said: “It is a tradition of the Church to celebrate a saint’s day on the day of his death. Today as we gather here we pray that, after 93 years of faithful and dedicated life to God Fr. Phil will begin his eternal life in the presence of Mary and the saints.”
Charting Fr. Donnelly’s life – from when he was ordained a priest on 18 June 1944, to his studies in the University of Grenoble in France to when he was appointed in 1945 to teach French in St. Columb’s College in Derry to his ministry in Limavady – mourners heard of a man who was a good teacher, a passionate writer and traveller; a man who “had an inexhaustible hunger for work”.
Fr. Forbes said Fr. Donnelly was first and foremost priest to his people, an obedient and dutiful servant of the Church and forever the teacher, sharing his knowledge and encouraging others in education.
“He was a stalwart of Catholic Education and encouraged every school in his care to excel and to never be satisfied with anything other than the best for children and staff,” he said.
Fr. Forbes also spoke of Fr. Donnelly’s love for travel. “He loved the freedom of the open road and often said that driving gave him energy. It brought headaches as well. He fell foul of the odd speed trap, in fact Nuala, his niece found evidence of a few speeding fines being paid in Scotland,” said Fr. Forbes.
“There was always a twinkle in the eye when he spoke of fast cars and open roads. I did ask him one time if he ever did ‘100’ and I suppose it is safe to say now when the law has no hold over him any more that he did admit that he had.
“I think there was a rebelliousness lurking under the surface that was held in check by obedient discipline and social graces.”
Fr. Forbes said Fr. Donnelly was proud to be a Derry priest and Derry played a big part in his life.
“He lived his life for God, the authority of the Church, family, his people and loved a little red wine,” he said, adding his wish was to be buried in the soil of Co. Derry in the Foreglen among a people he enjoyed and who were loyal to him.
Sympathies were offered to his “much loved nieces, to Nuala who cared for him and looked after him when it was much needed and to Sinead from Scotland; to his nephew, Bernard; to his grand-nephew, Michael and their spouses; to Eileen Johnson, widow of his cousin, Kevin Johnson and their children – Emer, Henry and Ciara and to the American branch of the family who cannot be present today: Deirdre, Maureen, Brigid, Greer and Kate.
“We pray that he will be eternally united in happiness with his parents, Harry, his brother and his sister, Mona, who shared the birth date but five years younger”.
Students from Foreglen PS offered the gifts while the Foreglen Folk Group provided music.
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Weather for Derry
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 30 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 4 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North