Fr. John Donnelly, RIP Funeral Homily

Funeral Homily for Fr John Donnelly, RIP, Wednesday, 12th of May, 2021, Our Lady, Queen of Ireland Church, Rathcabbin


I often think that for someone who lives an extraordinary long life, there must be a sense of loneliness.  Many contemporaries, family members and colleagues have already passed away, and hence it must be a nostalgic and isolating experience to some degree.


In the case of Fr. John, on the occasions I had the privilege to visit him, I always felt he was widely supported by many friends, family, carers, community: all only too happy to line up to spend time with him to enjoy his gentle and wise company and a good listening ear.


He was so at home here in Rathcabbin for the past 30 years and appreciated and savoured being an integral part of the community.


The parochial house here in the village was always a warm place to visit.  Warm not only from the welcome of Fr. John, but warm because of the briquette fire that was ablaze permanently, Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter.  During a visit, the sods of turf on the fire were regularly replenished with a skilful and experienced pitch of Fr. John, who despite not being able to see a stem never missed the target!


The reason, I believe Fr. John was not isolated was obvious by the multitude of beautiful comments of so many in the past few days, all commending him for his obvious transparent goodness, pleasantness, prayerfulness, dedication and contentment in his role as a Priest of Jesus Christ.


In a word he was one of life’s true gentlemen.  I recall with fond memories one visit in 2018 after Confirmation in Lorrha.  After the occasion I dropped in to visit Fr. John.  En route I was listening on the car radio to Ireland’s opening rugby match against France and the game was in the balance.  I thought to myself, if Fr. John was watching we’d get a chance to watch it together.  True enough he was glued to it when I arrived.  Johnny Sexton had a penalty opportunity to put Ireland in a significant place and the excitement was building.  Being the gentleman that Fr John was and being of that proverbial old school – when the Bishop came to visit – one turned off the television.  He was too polite to do otherwise.  We were both left looking at each other, wondering what the outcome of the match was.   Typical of the man in many ways, with his priority given to human relationship.  Perhaps it was our gesture of mutual respect that set Ireland on the path to six nations victory that year!


To be a golden jubilarian in any walk of life is significant, to be a diamond jubilarian is serious stuff, but to be a platinum jubilarian, plus three is total honours class.  73 years of unstinting service of the Lord in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ is an amazing record and with that he was certainly like a Melchisidech of Old, a priest forever.  The diocesan secretary, Fr. Ger Nash when researching Fr. John’s dates and appointments, came across his ordination card, from June 1948, entrusting his priesthood to Jesus, the Good Shepherd and Mary Immaculate, star of his apostolate.  With Jesus and Mary as his mentors from such an early stage – what had he to fear as the wisdom of Jeremiah remind us in today’s first reading.


Fr. John was indeed that good pastor, that good shepherd that we read of in the psalm today for so many, be it to his family in his native Kinnity, whom he loved so much or in St. Flannan’s, Maynooth, Nottingham, Cranny, Whitegate, Kilkishen, Corofin, Ruan, Lorrha.


What more appropriate words of scripture for such a gentle soul be found than the Gospel of today… Come to me all you who labour and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.


May Fr. John enjoy that well-earned rest and contentment in the company of the Good Shepherd and his Immaculate Mother, Mary, star of his apostolate. Amen!




Retired Parish Priest of Lorrha & Dorrha, Co. Tipperary


Born on March 23rd 1923


Fr John was a native of Kinnitty, Co Offaly and was a priest of the Diocese of Killaloe for 73 years.  He was a past pupil of St Flannan’s College, Ennis. He studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he was ordained on June 20th 1948.


His first appointment in 1948 was in the Diocese of Nottingham in the U.K. He returned to Ireland in 1950 to become curate in Cranny, Co. Clare. In July 1952 he was appointed as curate in Whitegate Co. Clare. In July 1957 he moved to Kilkishen, Co Clare as curate and in 1965 he was appointed curate in Corofin, Co. Clare. His next move was in 1970 to Killaloe as curate where he served for 10 years until 1980. He was appointed P.P of Ruan & Dysart Parish, Co. Clare in July 1980. He moved as Parish Priest to Lorrha and Dorrha in 1987 where he ministered until his retirement as P.P in 1998.  He was appointed A.P in the same parish in July 1998 and continued to work as a priest of the parish until 2012.


He died at his home in the parochial house, Rathcabban, Co Tipperary on Sunday, May 9th 2021


Suaimhneas síoraí tabhair dó a Thiarna, agus go lonraí solas suthain air.


Predeceased by his sisters and brothers, Kathleen, Mai, Nora, Teresa, Jos, Jim and Paddy. Deeply regretted by his nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, wonderful carers and Milford Care centre. Bishop Fintan Monahan, priests and religious in Killaloe Diocese, relatives, friends and parishioners of the various parishes that he administered.


Rest In Peace 


Fr Donnelly’s cortège will depart from his residence this Tuesday afternoon to Rathcabbin School arriving at 1pm, to Lorrha School arriving at 1:30pm Via Welshpark & Abbeyville, to Redwood School arriving at 2pm Via Ballyquirke , The Ferry, Portland & Moatfield, returning back to Rathcabbin. Concelebrate Mass on Wednesday afternoon at 3pm in Our Lady Queen of Ireland Church Rathcabbin followed by interment in the church grounds. Mass can be viewed on


In an effort to follow best practice in regard to gatherings for funerals people are asked to adhere to guidelines, thank you for cooperation.