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Suicide of ‘people’s priest’ leaves Ballina stunned

Fr Muredach Tuffy
LOSS Fr Muredach Tuffy

Suicide of ‘people’s priest’ leaves Ballina stunned

Áine Ryan


DESCRIBED as ‘the people’s priest’ by local TD Michelle Mulherin, the untimely death of Father Muredach Tuffy has left the parish of Ballina, and its environs, in deep shock and mourning. As news broke last Tuesday morning of the 39 year old’s suicide, a ripple of disbelief filtered through the community at the ‘sudden loss of so young and popular a priest’.
“Father Muredach was intricately involved in the life of Ballina in church and community, with young and old. He was the people’s priest, kind and personable, faithful in his duties and amenable to his parishioners. He will forever be associated with the story of the Newman Institute in Ballina and the lives of the many he touched, inspired and uplifted on his own journey through this life. In his time with us he has achieved a lot. One always had the sense that he was a safe pair of hands and a role model in the work of the parish. He will be most sadly missed,” Deputy Mulherin said yesterday. She expressed her sincere condolences to his family, colleagues and friends.
Speaking at his funeral Mass, in St Joseph’s Church, Castleconnor, last Friday, the Bishop of Killala, Dr John Fleming said: “We gather, on the Feast of All Souls, as a family, as a priesthood, and as friends, stunned by Muredach’s death and devastated in our grief. We gather to commend him to the gentle mercy of our loving God and we gather to comfort and console each other in our sorrow.”
Bishop Fleming said there was only one word on the congregation’s minds: “Why?”
“Why? Why did someone as gifted and as young as Muredach only see darkness on Monday last and decide that he could travel no further on life’s journey?  Why did he not share whatever anxiety filled his mind with someone? Why? Why? And as these days pass, we come, without an answer, to the realisation that we have to consign our questions to the realm of mystery, the divine mystery in which God lives, in which we believe Muredach now shares God’s life and in which we must ultimately leave all our unanswered questions,” he observed.
While, the manner of his passing would cast a long shadow for a long time, Bishop Fleming, said ‘it should not be allowed, however, to define his life or to darken what has been, by any standard, over 13 years of outstanding service given as a priest in this diocese’.
He cited his transformative work as a Director at the Newman Institute as well as his parochial and pastoral work.
“His years of service found their fulcrum in the Newman Institute and from that focal point many other satellites of activity found their orbit. Immediately after ordination, Bishop Finnegan prepared him for this work by sending him to Rome to study at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family at the Lateran University. On his return he was given the task of moving the focus of Newman from a Catholic University for Mayo towards a centre of adult faith formation for the West… For the past ten years he has given every ounce of his considerable energy to the Institute,” the bishop said.
He also highlighted his pastoral work in Kilcommon Erris, Rathduff and his recent service as an assistant priest in the Ballina cathedral.
“People and projects energised him. Availability was his second name. If he had a fault it was his inability to say ‘no’ – no to so many people who came to him with requests and good ideas and no to me, as his bishop, when, regretfully, I did the same,” he continued.

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