Friday, January 29, 2016

Brendan Fahey RIP

Fr. Brendan 1968

If you needed to describe Fr. Brendan Fahey in a short phrase, this would be "a gentle soul".

He was a member of the Columban Order, a band of tough, dedicated missionary priests. I am particularly aware of their work in the Philippines. They have championed civil rights in dictatorships and defended the environment against capitalist onslaughts. And some have paid a high price.

I think Brendan's work was less turbulent in the parishes he ministered to in Japan. He became fluent in Japanese and fell in love with the culture there. He fully appreciated the contradiction in that culture which can involve the coexistence of extreme delicacy on the one hand and serious savagery on the other. This latter trait is, of course, not limited to the Japanese. We are all human at the end of the day.

Ordination card from Fr. Brendan to my granny

Brendan was ordained in 1953 and spent most of his early ministry in Japan. I think he was heartbroken when he had to leave there. He had a varied career from then on but I have a feeling that some of his happiest times later in his ministry were when he was Parish Priest in the Welsh town of Denbigh.

Myself & Fr. Brendan at the Catholic Stand on the field
of the National Eisteddfod of Wales, in Denbigh, 2001

When we went to the National Eisteddfod there in 2001 he sorted out accommodation for us with one of the families in the parish and we had a lively dinner one evening in the parochial house.

This was a historic Eisteddfod where a woman won the Bardic Chair for the first time ever.

Brendan had the responsibility, and pleasure I think, of organising a Catholic stand on the Eisteddfod field. He told me afterwards that the bishop, who visited the stand, was most pleased.

Fr. Brendan celebrating the 60th anniversary of his ordination,
with sisters, Carmel (left) and Colette (right, 2013)

It was only recently that he celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination, which celebration he shared with a number of other priests and which was attended by his two living siblings.

Symbols of where Brendan made a difference

Among the objects presented at the funeral mass were these, representing those areas of the world where Brendan had made a significant difference. I was very pleased to see Wales represented separately despite its being already implicitly included in the UK flag. Brendan would have appreciated the down-to-earthness of the Welsh object concerned.

Lynne and Brendan at Old Head, Co. Mayo

It was great to meet Lynne again after all thes years but it was a bit overwhelming on such a sad occasion. Lynne and Brendan were wonderful best friends for the last seventeen years and the picture above is of happier times at Old Head. I had not seen Lynne since the Denbigh Eisteddfod in 2001.

Ned Crosby, Brendan and a touch of Wales, Bara Brith

While we're in the West, it is meet and just to mention Fr. Ned Crosby, Brendan's and my cousin. The picture was taken in Co. Clare, where they are breaking bara brith together. It was Ned's poem, Plough, that was read at both Brendan's 60th anniversary and at the funeral. The poem is reproduced in a comment below.

My cousins will never forgive me if I don't mention that Brendan was also a keen sportsman. He played for the Roscommon Minor Football Team in 1947 and he was also an excellent golfer.

Sweet Pea from the Columban Garden

He was also a keen gardener during his "retirement" in Dalgan Park. So much so that some of his colleagues imagine him with a bunch of sweet pea at the Pearly Gates to welcome their, hopefully not too imminent, arrival there.

You can read the biographical note from the funeral mass booklet here.

His brother, Ciaran, was also a priest. He ministered in the USA and died in 1995.

Brendan died at 11:45 pm on 24/1/2016 and was buried in the Order's cemetery in Dalgan Park on 27/1/2016.

Brendan as depicted on his funeral mass booklet

This is how most of us will remember Brendan.

May he rest in peace.


Colm K said...

At fr brendans mass today. Very moving. This is a wonderful biography. Well done. Colm

Póló said...

Thanks Colm.

Below is the poem Susan read from the altar.
Written by mine and Fr. Brendan's 2nd cousin Fr. Ned Crosby.
It grows on you.


by Fr. Ned Crosby

“Go on” .... He said .... I paused
Looking down the field.

“Will you go on” .... He said.

So .... I put my hands on the plough.

“Go on. I'll be with you”.

So I went.

Kept my hands on the plough,
didn't turn back, not once.
But never a day without looking back several times.
Now I pin my hopes that the seed will grow
on the slopes of a crooked furrow.

Póló said...

Reproduced below is Eli Jenkins' Prayer from Under Milk Wood which was a great favourite with Brendan and Lynne.

Every morning when I wake,
Dear Lord, a little prayer I make,
O please to keep Thy lovely eye
On all poor creatures born to die.

And every evening at sun-down
I ask a blessing on the town,
For whether we last the night or no
I'm sure is always touch-and-go.

We are not wholly bad or good
Who live our lives under Milk Wood,
And Thou, I know, wilt be the first
To see our best side, not our worst.

O let us see another day!
Bless us all this night, I pray,
And to the sun we all will bow
And say, good-bye - but just for now!

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Go raibh mile maith agat, a Phóló, as ucht an naisc don alt seo. Bhí an-mheas ag Breandán ar theanga agus cultúr na mBreathnach. He had the same respect for the Welsh people, language and culture that he had for the Japanese people, language and culture. It was on visits to him in Denbigh during a two-year assignment ‘on the road’ in Britain, 2000 to 2002, that I got to know Brendan.

Your post also answers a question I had when I received the obituary from Dalgan. It mentioned Cloonfad as being in Mayo. My research showed me that it was in Roscommon. You have confirmed the latter for me by mentioning Brendan’s exploits on the Roscommon minor football team.

Go raibh mile maith agat chomh maith don ‘Plough’ agus ‘Eli Jenkins’ Prayer’. May I add a link to another poem, ‘Love’ by George Herbert. [ ] The last time I concelebrated Mass with Brendan in Denbigh happened to be either the feast of George Herbert in the Anglican Church or the anniversary of his death. He was born in Wales and by all accounts was a pastor with a great love for the poor. I remember mentioning George Herbert during that Mass. This poem is included in the Breviary used by Catholics in Ireland, England and Wales, and Australia.

“You must sit down," says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh Breandán.

Póló said...

Thank you Fr. Seán for your memories of Brendan and for that wonderful poem. I was not familiar with George Herbert or with his poetry, but it's hard to beat a Welshman when it comes to verse, or prose, for that matter. And the poem still retains its beauty and meaning even in a purely secular sense.

This is a clickable LINK to your reference above to the excellent reading of the poem.

As Brendan seems to have provoked us all to poetry, I would like to recall a poem I found on a sympathy card at the time of my godmother's death and which I read from the altar in Dolphin's Barn at the funeral. It applies equally to Brendan.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die.

Brendan Kelly said...


A lovely tribute to such a gentle soul. Was so sad to hear the news of Fr Brendan's passing and sorry I couldnt make the funeral as I am in USA at moment .

May he Rest In Peace

Brendan Kelly