TO the haunting strains of Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff, the people of Robeen and the west bid a fond farewell to Fr Paddy Sheridan on Sunday afternoon. Tears filled many eyes in the overflow congregation as the Robeen Choir gave a magnificent rendering of the Percy French classic, so beloved of Breffni folk all over the world. The Cavan and Mayo flags on either side of the altar told their own story of a man who had formed an extraordinary kink between the two counties since he came here in the 1990s.
Only last July, the people of Robeen parish turned out to honour the golden jubilee of Fr Paddy’s ordination. The man from Killinkere, Virginia, and a member of the Oblate Order, had endeared himself so much to them over the past four years since arriving here from Tooreen. It was an open house where people came and went and he loved the informality of it all.
Fr Paddy had been coping with an illness for some time. But his attitude and manner were quite extraordinary. Death held no fear whatsoever for him. In an emotional address to the congregation back in July, he spoke openly about his illness. He described his life in the priesthood as one of hard work, fulfilment and joy. He saw himself as a facilitator in the communities where he worked. “It has been a wonderful life and I thank God for that,” he said.
Born in 1936, remarkably the same year that Mayo won their first Sam Maguire Cup, Paddy Sheridan was ordained in 1960. He spent a year at the Oblate Scholasticate in Piltown in Kilkenny followed by a year at the headquarters in Inchicore. From 1962 until 1992, he ministered entirely in England, including Holy Cross, Liverpool, the English Martyr’s Parish in Tower Hill, London, the Irish Centre in Camden Town, Plunkett House Hostel in Birmingham, Christopher House, Quex Road, Kilburn and the Oblate Parishes in England. He came back to Ireland in 1992 and spent six years out on Inishboffin. In 1998, he was appointed to Tooreen and came to Robeen in 2006.
Archbishop Michael Neary, who delivered the funeral homily, spoke of Fr Paddy’s “practical and pragmatic” approach to faith and his calling in life. “He was a spiritual leader of great compassion and generosity. He displayed heroic humility and openness of heart. He shared his faith generously with all. Paddy was a man who called it as it was. You knew where you stood with him.”
The chief celebrant was Fr Mike Murphy, PP.
Phil Gibbons, chairperson of the Pastoral Council, excelled in her address of welcome and set the tone for the ceremonies. Later, Fr Tony Clancy from the Oblate Order joined in the tributes while Fr Paddy’s nephew, Paudie, expressed the grateful thanks of the family circle in Cavan to the people of Robeen and Mayo and the West for the great friendship they had shared with Fr Paddy during his years in the west.