Funeral Homily for Fr. Paddy Culligan, RIP

Funeral Homily for Fr. Paddy Culligan, RIP, Monday 30th of November, 2020, Church of the Blessed Virgin, Carrigaholt, Kilballyowen Parish

The last letter I received from Fr. Paddy was dated July 18th, 2018. His headed note paper had a logo of a dolphin with the following explanation underneath:

“As the Dolphin shows love for Humankind
It has become The Symbol of

It was ironic that as Fr. Paddy was living out his last few days in Cahercalla Community Hospital the search was going on for the country’s most famous dolphin, Funghi who had spent the last several decades interacting and entertaining many visitors off the coast of Kerry. As we were marking Funghi’s final days in Dingle harbour the Church was winding down another liturgical year. On the last day then of that Church year before we entered into this new Advent Season – Fr. Paddy returned to God in as gentle a manner as he lived. Content, dolphin like, showing compassion, kindness and regard for those in his care and moreover his love for his creator in whom he believed and trusted so fervently.

We pray in this Mass for the happy repose of his soul. We pray that the Lord might forgive whatever shortcomings he may have had. We thank God for his long and fulsome life and the great service he gave to the Church and his people he served. We pray also for the consolation of his many friends and family to whom we extend our heart-felt sympathies.

Pillars of His Life
In a nutshell Community, Temperance, Culture, Football, Family and Faith were the key things in Fr. Paddy’s life.

Wherever Fr Paddy served, the emigrant chaplaincy in Brentwood, Kilkee, Kilmurray McMahon, Carrigaholt or his native Killimer – building community was what Fr. Paddy was about. Pobal Dé. The Body of Christ. Building the community of Church that loved and cared for each other and served God in every way. His particular interest was in building community in the field of education, primary schools of the parishes he served and the Gael Choláiste here in Carrigaholt.

Fr. Paddy had a problem with drink! Not in the same way that certain iconic TV personalities who trod the boards in Fr. Ted’s house in north Clare! His problem with drink was not in part-taking of it, but in encouraging others to be temperate in the use of same. Being a life-long pioneer and devotee of Matt Talbot he promoted the Virtue of Temperance in a very specific way through the Matt Talbot Novenas in Kilrush and in co-operation with Shannon parish also.

Being from the football heartland, here in west Clare – when he returned from the emigrant mission in England Fr. Paddy through himself into getting involved with his parishioners through the medium of GAA and experienced great success with his involvement with minor and senior teams in Kilkee.

Loyalty to Family was key for Fr. Paddy and he loved the interaction with various members of his family and that loyalty was returned in spades during his recent stay in Cahercalla over the past year or more.

Fr. Paddy was a man of deep faith. A dedicated priest of over 60 years, a record that speaks for itself. He was utterly loyal to pastoral, priestly and diocesan gatherings and thought nothing about crossing the diocese all the way from Loop Head to the Slieve Blooms if there was a gathering or function or funeral to attend. He was great for keeping in touch with priests and was known to make his calls early in the morning to catch up on the news before he began his day.

Devotion and interest in the Saints
He had a passion for and great devotion to the Saints and promoted that so much during his priestly life. Again in his letter to me of 2018 I quote the following to illustrate that: “One important Mass coming up is St. Martin’s Shrine and Blessed Well in Clarefield which will be celebrated on July 26th. St. Martin’s Blessed Well was wished for down the years. It was a Blessed Well established by St. Senan who had in his early travel days like St. Patrick known about the necessity of establishing Monasteries all over Europe. Surprise, surprise St. Senan travelled with St. Benedict and St. Benedict is today the Patron Saint of Europe. It was a way in which St. Senan eventually came home and established the monastery in Scattery Island. St. Ciarán of Clonmacnoise visited St. Senan and Scattery, not to forget the extraordinary establishment and links that Ciarán had from students all over Europe. There is so much that could be said about our Saints who did so much for this country like St. Patrick and St. Senan and many more.”

An Ghaeilge
Thaithnigh an Ghaeilge go mór leis an Ath. Paddy. Ba bhreá leis ár dteanga dhúchais a úsáid nuair a fuair sé an deis.

So much of what Fr. Paddy loved and stood for so much was summed up in his love for the Irish language, his love of faith and for him the two were intertwined. Bhí siad fite, fuaite ina chéile. He loved the history, heritage and culture of his native west Clare. He spoke and with pride of the areas link with the great scholar Eugene O’Curry and of course the famous Fr. Meehan of the Little Ark fame.

In referring to the founding of Gael Choláiste, Choláiste Uí Chomhraidh he commented in that same letter to me in 2018:

“It was an extraordinary development at the time. After that stands the work of Fr. Meehan of the Ark which came to be very well known for religious reasons. Fr. Meehan (he remarked) was a marvel of achievement especially in the Irish Language so prevalent amongst the people at the time.

I desire (says Fr. Paddy in one of his favourite topics) to mention his much loved Irish poem.

Ag Críost and Síol,
Ag Críost an Fómhar,
In iothlann Dé go dtugtar sin.

The last two lines of this hymn

Ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch, ach ath-fhás,
I bPárthas na ngrás go raibhimid,

In English it could be said it’s not a question of death but re-growth to the Paradise of Graces, may we be.”

Fr. Paddy concluded the above mentioned letter with the words
“It is time for me to conclude and hope that what I have said is some use…”

In tune with the wise words of Fr. Paddy – It is time for me to conclude as we celebrate the life of someone who achieved so much as a priest of Jesus Christ for over 60 years in Killaloe and further afield.

I bPárthas na nGrás go raibh a anam uasal, dílis, Gaelach.
May he have a bed of peace and contentment in the Paradise of Graces with the Saints he loved so much.