A KILLARNEY born Franciscan, who dedicated his entire life to following the example of Francis of Assisi, by helping the oppressed, the marginalised and those most in need of support, was laid to rest this afternoon in his home town.
Fr Fintan (Michael) O’Shea, OFM, the son of the late MD Mackey and Margaret O’Shea, passed away on Monday in St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin following a short illness. He was 82.
Completing the circle of a remarkable life of dedication and service, Fr Fintan’s Requiem Mass was held at noon this Thursday in the Franciscan Friary, Killarney where, in September 1958, he first entered the Franciscan novitiate in the town in which he grew up.
Principal celebrant Fr Caoimhín Ó Laoide said today was very much a homecoming for Fr Fintan as he was returning to the place he was born during the opening months of World War II which was a very difficult time in Ireland and elsewhere.
Having been educated in the Mercy Convent and the Presentation Monastery, Michael continued his studies in the Franciscan College in Gormanston, Co Meath and returned to the novitiate in Killarney where he took the religious name Fintan and he prayed daily in the choir stalls immediately behind where his remains were before the altar this afternoon.
Fr Ó Laoide recalled that Michael was ordained Fr Fintan in 1966 when the Second Vatican Council was just reaching its conclusion and there was a great sense of new ideas and enthusiasm and a new openness about how the church could interact and further connect with the world.
Fr Fintan was very much defined by his experiences as a missionary priest in Latin America and it was a good experience for him in every sense and it stood to him for the rest of his life.
“He was in Chile and El Salvador at difficult times where there were dictatorships, revolutions and violence, with people like General Pinochet, and it made Fintan very much a person who fought against authoritarian regimes,” Fr Ó Laoide said.
He said the Killarney-born missionary was a bit suspicious of authority and he identified with the people who struggled and were oppressed.
Fr Ó Laoide said when Fr Fintan returned from Latin America to live in Dublin, he continued his work for the ordinary people with whom he had a great connection.
He was chaplain to CIE and to Dublin Port where he encountered many lost souls, people who were literally a world away from their homes and he identified with them and assisted them in any way he could.
The principal celebrant said Fr Fintan was a man of strong convictions, great beliefs and deep faith which sustained him throughout any dark times he encountered.
Fr Ó Laoide read a very poignant letter from an elderly friar, Fr Brendan Forde, who served for many years with Fr Fintan in Latin America where they first met 50 years ago. He penned the letter in recent days on learning that his great friend had passed away just three weeks after they last spoke to each other.
They were looking forward to their annual trip to Killarney, which Covid had made impossible for the past two years, and they were planning a leisurely climb of Torc mountain, a visit to Muckross and they intended finishing a walk through the Gap of Dunloe with an Irish coffee.
“Suddenly, that’s all gone – I thought you would always be there,” wrote Fr Brendan who described Fr Fintan as a great friend.
He went on to recall some great days they spent together in Latin America, living in and ministering together from a small wooden house on the outskirts of Santiago for a period of time in 1975.
Fr Brendan said Fr Fintan always gravitated towards people who suffered or seemed lonely and this was true in Ireland as well as during his missionary work.
In the moving letter, he said: “When a friend dies, we can regret that we never told him or her that we loved them so, Fintan, I want to tell you something that I never told you, though you probably wouldn’t have believed it anyway – you were one of my heroes”.
The late Killarney Franciscan’s great friend added that he has so many happy memories of times when Fr Fintan was the life of the party and many times in Chile when an El Salvador support group got together for food, his version of An Poc ar Buile always brought the house down.
Fr Brendan said the Killarney priest was “a great son of Francis of Assisi”.
“Preach the Gospel, St Francis said, and if necessary use words. Fintan, you preached by example,” his letter concluded
Fr Ó Laoide was joined on the Franciscan Friary altar for today’s Requiem Mass by Bishop Emeritus Dr Bill Murphy, Killarney Parish Administrator Fr Kieran O’Brien, Fr Tom Looney, Fr Seán Hanafin, Fr Paddy O’Donoghue, Killarney Guardian Br Pat Lynch and several members of the Franciscan community.
Predeceased by his parents Michael and Margaret and sister Kathleen (Duggan), Fr Fintan (Michael) is survived by his brothers Donal and Tim, sister Peggy (Coghlan), brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, grandnephews, grandnieces, his Franciscan brothers, relatives and many friends.
Requiem Mass was also celebrated in Adam and Eve’s Church, Merchants Quay, Dublin on Wednesday and Fr Fintan Michael was laid to rest with his parents in Aghadoe.