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Fr Pat Egan celebrates golden jubilee

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Fr Pat Egan celebrates golden jubilee

South Mayo came out in force to honour Fr Egan’s fifty years of priesthood

Michael ComminsMichael Commins

FATHER Pat Egan from Ballybrehony, Claremorris has seen life from many sides. The man who was honoured by his home community on the occasion of the golden jubilee of his ordination has spent many years in Chile and will return there again in October.
A Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated by Fr Pat in Barnacarroll Church where he was joined by a number of priests, including his brother Fr Seamus and his uncle Fr Paddy.
Neighbour Chris Boyle introduced and linked the ceremony in a superb manner while Fr Pat’s sister, Bernadette Parle, who resides in Co Wexford, treated the congregation to some lovely reflections on Pat’s life prior to the start of the Mass.
He received his primary education in both Ballyfarna and Murneen schools and his secondary education in St Colman’s College in Claremorris. From his excellent Leaving Cert results he got the call to Teacher Training College but he choose the call to the Priesthood instead..
He joined the Missionary Order of St Columban’s in Dalgan Park, Navan, in September 1953 and six years later his brother Sheamus followed in his footsteps.
Pat played football for the Claremorris team during the summers and had his nose broken twice, during “friendly matches”!
Bernadette, in her address recalled his ordination. “He was ordained in December 1959. Ten guests were invited to the ceremony and Dan Lavelle who owned the only taxi in Claremorris drove through the night to arrive in time for the ordination ceremony the following morning. Eighteen young handsome new prostrated before the altar and were ordained by the bishop that morning in a very solemn and impressive ceremony.
That evening on returning to the village, the Healys, Macs, Devines, Clearys, Gavins, Boyles, Prendergasts, and Comers all had bonfires lit and the families were standing at their gates to welcome the newly-ordained Pat.
“Pat celebrated his first Mass here the following morning. The Church was packed and after Mass people queued for his blessing. That night neighbours gathered for a meal and a hooley at our house. Johnny Cleary played the accordion and Martin Comer and many others contributed to a sing-song.”
Soon Pat would undertake an amazing journey to a land where he would spend the bulk of his life. “The following September, he was sent as chaplain to a seaman’s mission in the Port of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Imagine if you can a young man of 24 who had never been out of Ireland being sent into a foreign city, where English was not the first language and where he knew nobody. It was a large port where every nationality and creed traded.
“His superior was Fr McFadden, an elderly Donegal priest. Fr McFadden cycled from Donegal to Ballybrehony some time later to see our mother and father to bring news of Pat and he was all of 70 years at that time.
“Pat’s next assignment was in Santiago in Chile. All communications at that time were by letters, and through Pat’s letters we heard about exotic places like Buenos Aires, Valparaiso, Viarica, Temuco, Port de Mont and Santiago. After each letter arrived we’d look-up those places on the atlas. The letters also brought news of earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, strikes and military coups.
“As the years went on he returned more often and still managed to hold his good Mayo accent.
On his way home he frequently spent time with our sisters and their families in Newfoundland, Toronto, Chicago and Baltimore. He visited friends and relations all over the States and he visited with us in our homes in Ireland.
“He was always interested and hungry for family news, news of the neighbours, the parish, national news and of course the GAA news. Each time he came home he was the catalyst that brought us together and helped to keep the family united.
“Pat has a great sense of family and over the years he has officiated at family weddings and family baptisms in Ireland, Canada and the States, and also officiated, sadly, at family funerals.
Each time he was in Ireland he always invited us to visit Santiago and finally in January 2008, my brother John, his wife Geraldine, my husband, also called John, and I made the trip to Santiago. We talk about Ireland being the country of the thousand welcomes, but the Columbans and Pat certainly demonstrated what that meant.
“We travelled up mountains, over gorges, through vineyards, climbed the side of active volcanoes, saw colossal rivers, water-falls and rapids, we visited shrines, churches and wineries, we drank plenty of wine and ate good Chilean food. We visited all the exotic-sounding places, Valparaiso Villarica, Temuco and Porte Mont and everywhere we went we were warmly welcomed.
“Over the past 50 years Pat has ministered in seven different parishes in Chile mostly in the city of Santiago itself, but also in Vallenare in the diocese of Copiapo in the desert in Northern Chile. He currently works in the parish of Puento Alto, which is a suburb of Santiago with nine churches and a population of 60,000 people.
“Thirty years ago last April, a group of clergy from Chile attended the Centenary celebrations in Knock. They were led by Cardinal Silva and Pat acted as guide and translator. One evening they visited Barnacarroll. Hundreds of parishioners greeted the group outside the church. Mass was celebrated, the choir sang and the Cardinal gave a sermon in Spanish. Pat translated after which the congregation clapped spontaneously, showing their pride in having one of their own parishioners translating a South American Cardinal’s sermon from Spanish to English.
“In the Central Square in Santiago to-day there is a statue of Cardinal Silva, erected by the people of Chile in honour of his work for democracy and human rights, and for his support of the Chilean people during the brutal dictatorship of Pinochet. It was an amazing moment for us to see the statue and say that Cardinal Silva said mass in our church in Barnacarroll and we were at that Mass and shook the Cardinal’s hand.
“All this missionary work was undertaken with no expectation or ambition of amassing any type of wealth or possessions for himself. In spite of all that, and maybe because of it, he is with us here to-day, smiling and happy and celebrating his Golden Jubilee, and already he is talking of returning to Santiago in October,” she said to enthusiastic applause from the congregation.
Friends from his days playing football with Claremorris were also present to renew acquaintances and share some memories from back the years.
A celebration was later held in the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris where Fr Pat and family members were again busy meeting old friends and neighbours on this special night. A presentation was made to him by Brendan Gavin on behalf of the people of the Barnacarroll region. Fr Pat joined in the words of thanks to all associated with organising the special celebrations in his honour. Music for dancing was provided by Kay and the Country Stars.
The members of the organising committee were Fr Colm Burke, Brendan Gavin, Kathleen McGrenra, Fiachra Groarke, Chris Boyle, Pat Comer, Tina Prendergast, Tommy Lavelle, John Cleary, John Fleming, Marcella Molloy, Paddy Prendergast, Michael Nally, Ethna McNicholas, Padraig Devine, TJ Fallon, Mary O’Rourke, Eva O’Sullivan, Michael Keane and Bernie Commins.