A POPULAR local clergyman was laid to rest last Monday, following an illness.

Father Bernard ‘Benny’ Fitzpatrick (80) passed away peacefully on April 30. He had been stationed in the Killesher parish as the Catholic curate for the past number of years.

Paying tribute to Fr. Fitzpatrick, Fr. Maurice McMorrow said: “He was a quiet man who was dedicated to ministry. He was very enthusiastic and quite vocal on his religious stances.

“He had been in Nigeria for 23 years, and enjoyed Africa a lot. He enjoyed working in a young church; the young church would have gripped him and enhanced him.”

When in Africa, Fr. Fitzpatrick was aligned to the Kilteegan Fathers whilst he was on missions work, with the Kiltegan Fathers represented at the Funeral Mass by Fr. Joe Long, who had also served with Fr. Fitzpatrick and was in the seminary with him.

Fr. Fitzpatrick was described as “very popular in the parish, and well-known from his time here”.

He began his service in the Killesher Parish in February, 2014, after he returned to Ireland in 2013 from his overseas work.

Fr. McMorrow added: “He never flinched from responsibility; he was a very prayerful man.”

Although he was based in the Killesher parish until his death, Fr. Fitzpatrick had served right across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kilmore, with his service to God seeing him work at a number of nearby and also far-flung spots, as needed.

Previously, he had been a priest in Killasnett (appointed CC in 1983); Ballintemple (1988); Drumkilly (1991); a missionary priest in Lagos, Nigeria (1992); Clifferna (1998); a missionary priest in another part of Lagos, Nigeria (2001); and his final vocation in the parish of Kinawley Killesher and Swanlinbar from 2014 onwards.

He officially retired from the priesthood in March.

Fr. Fitzpatrick came to his vocation late, as Fr. McMorrow explained: “He was slightly late to the vocation and was 42 when he was ordained; prior to that he worked on the family farm, and drove the school minibus. He was ordained as a priest on June 19, 1983.

“He was a big music fan and enjoyed the music of Charlie Pride and Big Tom. In his younger days, he was in a band that performed in small pubs and venues; I believe he was the singer.”

Fr. Fitzpatrick was brought up in Crubany, Co. Cavan, a son to Mary and Pat Fitzpatrick.

He was predeceased by his brother, Jim, and his sisters, Betty, Maura and Anne; he is survived by his sister, Madeline, and his large family circle.

Fr. Fitzpatrick had been in ill health for some time, but he was devoted to his congregation and said his last masses in the parish during the Christmas period.

Parishioners and locals stood out to pay their respects along the roadside on May 3 when Fr. Fitzpatrick’s remains passed through the parish.

There was also a large presence along the funeral route on May 4 when Fr. Fitzpatrick made his final journey, to St. Brigid’s cemetery, Killygarry.