Funeral Homily for Fr. Brian Geoghegan, Mountshannon, 7th of March, 2023
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans…
Postscript – Seamus Heaney
The image of the swans in the poem, Postscript by Seamus Heaney on the Flaggy Shore, so beloved to Fr. Brian is a great symbol of transformation, transfiguration. On the day that Fr. Brian passed away last weekend the Christian world was getting ready to hear and contemplate the Gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. In that Gospel in the midst of the routine, the ordinary, the mundane we see a glimpse of what we hope lies in store for us, the glory, beauty, brilliance, radiance of the Beatific Vision.
Today in our prayers we commend the soul of Fr. Brian to that vision. We offer sympathies and condolences to his family, colleagues and many friends who are so sad at his passing. We reflect on a long and well lived life, a profound faith embraced and shared with so many for an impressive 63 years of priestly life, a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ.
What a rich and varied life of Ministry: From his native Mountshannon, to Maynooth, Feakle, Emmigrant chaplaincy in England, Social Services in Limerick, Army chaplaincy there, St. Flannans College, Cardiff University, Social Services in Ennis, Clarecare, Killaloe, Tubber, The Burren, Carrigoran.
Post-Vatican II Vision and Energy
The energy and enthusiasm of the post Vatican II days gave rise to an extraordinary calibre and crop of visionary priests in the diocese of Killaloe. Encouraged by Bishop Michael Harty far seeing young priests like Brendan O’Donoghue, the Sexton brothers, Harry Bohan, Fr. Brian and others underwent training in many different fields of social sciences and came back with great ideas which they put into action in a most creative way throughout the 1970’s and 80’s.
Extraordinary and ground breaking work was done at that time in the development in the county in social services, youth services, care for the elderly, the founding of Clarecare, Bushy Park, encouraging work in the voluntary sector and developing community and related outreach in Clare and Killaloe diocese.
Great work was done for those struggling with poverty, housing, addictions, assistance for single mothers, crisis pregnancy, fostering, adoption and that is just some of the many projects embarked on by this wave of wonderful work.
A Man before his Time
So many have remarked that Fr. Brian was a man before his time. He was always looking for new and better ways to do things. Even in his 70’s while in twilight years of ministry he embraced the new system of cluster in Imeall Bóirne while living in Tubber and was so excited about this new development. He had an intelligence and passion about community and community to community care.
Fr. Brian instinctively saw where the gaps in the system were and where needs were and went after addressing these with diligence. He was never afraid or daunted by growth or expansion in what was developing in the burgeoning services of Clarecare. He had a courageous, trust in the project, his vison and implicit trust in the vision of those around him and their ability to implement. All of this was marked by an unswerving kindness to coleagues, staff and their families
Brian had an extremely strong work ethic and expected the same from those around him. Despite that he maintained balance at the same time and had many other non-work related interests, reading widely, local history, sports, local and national, walking in The Burren, Abbey Hill and The Flaggy Shore. He thoroughly enjoyed linking in with family and friends and family interaction was so important and treasured by him and the relationship was mutual.
Man of few words
Fr. Brian, like many wise people was not given to loquaciousness or small talk. He never used two words when one would do. Being the soul of discretion his left hand had no idea what his right hand was doing. Such was his nature and this quality worked to his advantage in so many situations in life in his pastoral interaction with those to whom he ministered with love and kindness and goodness.
He had an extraordinary love of the Burren and was passionate about it way before many others discovered it and it became popular, nationally and internationally. Few were surprised that he opted to reside there in Munnia on retirement and enjoyed that so much.
The other area he loved so much was his native Mountshannon and the hinterland of Lough Derg, Inish Cealtra, Holy Island and the sacred heritage associated. Because his parents were buried there he often spoke of visits there and rowboats going there down through the years.
Carmody’s Hotel Tragedy in Ennis
Recent events like the gas explosion and tragedy in Creeslough, the war in the Ukraine, the earthquake in Turkey and Syria often shock us into contemplating the fragility and precariousness of life. On the 15th of January, 1958 as young curate in Feakle Fr. Brian went to Carmody’s hotel in Ennis to an auction, hoping to buy some furniture. While appreciating what was on sale, but being a man who never liked crowded venues, he didn’t wait for the auction to take place and returned home. A short time after he departed 8 people were tragically killed and many more injured in the hotel, following the collapse of the floor upstairs. In the face of such tragic loss, Fr. Brian often reflected on how lucky he was when so many others were not. The diocese of Killaloe and all who knew Fr. Brian were very lucky as well that he survived and went on to minister in such an effective way as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
In that poem postscript we reflect on the swan, that undergoes transformation and transfiguration. From a simple form of life that tentatively cracks open a shell, becomes a multi-coloured cygnet and eventually a magnificent white bird of grace and beauty – we see a reflection of our Christian journey. The seed, the grace of baptism that sets us on the road to the beautiful flaggy shore of heaven. May Fr. Brian’s gentle soul be at home there today and forever, Amen!
Fr. Brian Geoghegan
P.E. Imeall Boirne Pastoral Area
Brian Geoghagan was born on Sept 1st 1932. He was a native of the parish of Mountshannon. He studied in St. Patricks College, Maynooth from 1950 to 1957. He was ordained to the priesthood on the 16th of June 1957 by Bishop Joseph Rodgers in St. Mary of the Rosary Church, Nenagh.
From 1957 to 1959 he served as Curate in the parish of Feakle. From 1959 to 1962 he served in the chaplaincy to Irish emigrants in England. In October 1962 he was appointed Dean of Studies in St. Flannan’s College, Ennis. He undertook a course in social studies in Cardiff university in 1969 and was appointed to Limerick social services in 1970. In July 1973 he was appointed director of Clare Social Services Council ( Clarecare ). He worked in this role until 1989 when he became Parish Priest of Killaloe. In 2003 he was appointed to the Imeall Boirne Pastoral Area, residing in Tubber parish.
He spent his final years in Carrigoran house.
He died on March 4th 2023
May He Rest in Peace.