40 -- Fr. Pat O'Brien
(CC Skehana 1983 - 1995)
Fr. Pat O’Brien 1983 – 1995
Fr Pat O’Brien is a native of Claremorris. He was ordained by Archbishop Joseph Cunnane in Claremorris Church on June 10th. 1979. His first ministry began in July 1979 in Clare Island. Fr O’Brien came to Skehana from his previous ministry on Clare Island in October 1983. In May 1988 Archbishop Joseph Cassidy launched fr Pat’s book of poetry, “A Book of Genisis” in Galway. He trained the local Hurling Team and produced Drama with the local Macra Na Feirme Group which led to both to achieve many successes during his time in the parish.
He was appointed CC of the parish of Killmena in June 1995 and ministered in Fahy Church until being transferred to become Chaplin at GMIT in Castlebar. He was appointed as CC to the parish of Tuam in June 2004. Here he served until being appointed PP of the parish of Caherlistrane where he still ministers.
UPDATE: So sad to report that Fr. Pat O’Brien passed away on November 25th. 2021 after a battle with cancer. He was laid to rest in his native Claremorris alongside his beloved parents.
A TRIBUTE TO PAT O’BRIEN from Paddy Curley, Guilka.
It’s a “starry, starry night” in Claremorris tonight with an extra one shining high and bright.
If the potbelly* could sing or even talk of the events that happened around it, from the time that Pat O’Brien arrived in Skehana until he left, we would have voluminous tomes of topics varying from the mystery of the Trinity to how the heifer and calf got on, and everything in between.
We write this with a mad mix of emotions ranging from tears of grief to bellyaching laughter remembering our dear friend Pat. One thing is for sure – Pat O’Brien will not be forgotten.
First off, we want to extend sincere condolences to his immediate family. Pat has always spoken of the love he had for his brothers and sister and wider extended family. Their loss is profound. We will remember them in our thoughts.
On behalf of the members of Skehana Macra na Feirme, we want to acknowledge the immense contribution that Pat had in our lives. Written words will never convey the enormity of that. It can however prompt personal recollections which each of us in the coming days, weeks and for eternity can use to think of Pat and value the time we had with him.
The Monday nights in Costelloe’s after our meetings and drama rehearsals was, for us, the event that our lives revolved around. We travelled to many halls and theaters around the country but this was our bedrock. No matter the outcome of any competition the Monday night in Costelloe’s was our fulcrum.
Pat put pen to paper for our group and gave us all an opportunity to express ourselves which we would never otherwise have gotten. From “Betrayal”, “To Curse the Darkness”, “Pan International Chemical Corporation Presents Sophocles Antigone” and numerous other plays we all had the chance to do something that would never have come our way. For that alone we are eternally grateful.
In trying to recollect all those places we participated in some immediately come to mind. There was Shinrone, the Palm Sunday mass and the silverware episode, Ballinagh in Cavan, the Clifden Arts Festival, Kiltullagh and coming home from there, the Ballygar talent competition, farm skills (or lack thereof) in the Ag College in Mountbellew, sports day in Limerick and the missed penalties, and many, many, more. Pat was always there as a part of that group who were tighter than thieves.
We will always remember the Arts Festivals in Skehana. Pat had the contacts to get named artists, poets, musicians and performers that graced our community because of their love of him. We won’t name them because wewill surely leave out somebody but we will forever remember the great times we had.
As a priest Pat conveyed that sense of Godliness whenever he was called upon. From his weekly sermons, to times of grief and joy, Pat had the words, and wisdom to use them, bringing consolation, comfort, and hope to all. He was always available no matter the day or hour. He never judged and always saw the silver lining. As a friend one could not written a better script. He would give you the shirt from his back. He listened and advised with compassion and empathy.
Pat, know that you will always be remembered. You were a friend, artist, intellect, priest, and above all else, a decent human being that graced our circle. We are all the better from having known you.
* old pot belly stove in Costelloe’s pub
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Thank you Paddy Curley for such a heartfelt tribute to Fr. Pat. Living as I have in Canada for almost 50 years I only found out, quite by accident, just two nights ago. It says something about the man I knew at St Jarlath’s College in Tuam that I barely slept that night, not until I resorted to a few drams of brandy in my several cups of tea, as I pondered the astonishing outpouring of love, respect and gratitude for Fr. Pat as manifest in the hundreds and hundreds of comments in the various local media. He was the first fellow student I met on my first day at St.Jarlath’s boarding school. His family had just dropped him off and now he was in tears as he wandered alone through the Ambulatory where my mother was dropping me off for the term also. We became good friends from that moment and all through the years at Jarlath’s and even when he went to Maynooth I often would visit there to spend time with him and a handful of other friends from College days. I think I must have been a bit of a bad influence back in those early days as once the ‘powers that be’ found out about my visits I was informed that I would no longer be welcome. You see, at that time I was a student at Trinity College and in 1969 it was still viewed as somewhat of a mortal sin ( this was in the days of Archbishop McQuade ) to enter the Protestant gates of Trinity College! The reason I relate all of this is so that I can convey to you the depth of friendship and total respect I had for my old college friend Pat O’Brien. You see, after that rude eviction we lost touch and only met once ever again over the intervening years which was at the St. Jarlath’s 25th year past pupil’s reunion in 1994. In the utter excitement of that day and the rush of seeing so many old friends we never got the chance to catch up. I can still see Pat’s face clear as day as we said our goodbyes at the refectory door in St.Jarlath’s. But I never did forget him and tried a number of times to reconnect on my few visits back home but it was not meant to be. It says something about the young Pat O’Brien that I knew so well back in the day that I have shed more than a few years of heartfelt loss at his passing. Even in those early days at college it was obvious he could have become almost anyone or anything he dreamed off. He had enormous, effortless natural talent at whatever he did be it in sports such as football, javelin, high jump, long jump, throwing the putt, or be it in his academic prowess in the classroom on every single subject without exception. Pat invariably came first in the honours class in every subject and yet it never for one second went to his head. He was a total natural at whatever he did, gifted in every way! The year 1969 was the historic first year that there were no vocations in the Leaving Cert graduating class. It was a harbinger of the tectonic changes that were to subsequently engulf the Irish polity. Imagine that, not one candidate for Maynooth out of an assortment of 50 or 60 students. It was without precedent. So a select handful were invited back to St. Jarlath’s for a special retreat during the summer of ’69 to be led by some outside Order to help us ‘examine our conscience’ and truly decide that we were not in fact ‘denying the voice of God in our hearts’. Well in my case I did listen, weigh and reflect but the prospect of “freedom” and an imminent trip to Spain were too much to turn my back on and that was the end of my vocation! But not so for Pat and five or so other worthy classmates from those days who were caught up in the ‘fisherman’s net’ and went on to study at Maynooth and subsequently became ordained. I always felt that no matter what Pat would turn his hand to that he would be a trailblazer. He had ability and talent to burn. I always thought he would make his mark on the world in some major way. And he did, but not in the way I expected. He became a trailblazer alright – one who reached into the hearts and souls and minds of countless men and women up and down the length and breadth of Mayo, Galway and right across the country and in my case at least, across the ocean too to where I have been living in Canada these past 45 years. I am neither maudlin nor senile but I can honestly say that the tears I’ve spilled these past two days for a man I’ve only met once in 50 years are tears of both joy and sorrow on my part. Tears of sorrow for having lost a true friend of the spirit. And joy at being able to witness the outpouring of love and affection from all quarters for Fr Pat upon the news of his passing. Not having Pat’s genius for poetry and being unable myself to choose the right words to honour his passing I can only turn for inspiration to the religious text of the Ethics of the Father’s, the Pirkei Avoth of the Jewish Mishnah, which was often quoted to me by closest friend here in Canada, a survivor from Auschwitz who also – just like Pat – walked the Path of Wisdom and Compassion: ” In a place where there are no men, strive thou to be a man”.
Pat would have understood for sure . . .
Paddy, thank you for a wonderful tribute to a man we all loved, you have put in words the thoughts and memories that we all share , ” May his gentle soul Rest in Peace”
RIP Fr Pat O’Brien great man
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