Funeral Homily for Fr. Joe Haugh, Doonbeg Church, Monday 6th of April, 2020
As we begin our journey into Holy Week, we are conscious that in just a few days, on Holy Thursday, with the Chrism Mass and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper we reflect on the meaning of service and what it is to be a priest of Jesus Christ. Fr. Joe Haugh, God rest his soul, a native of Coolmeen gave 63 years of unstinting and faithful service as a priest, most of that in the diocese of Killaloe, after returning from 6 years of ministering in Brentwood in England after being ordained in 1957.
On the 16th of June, 1957 six young men were ordained to the priesthood in St. Mary’s in Nenagh. The Church in Nenagh had just been renovated that year and they were anxious to have an occasion to show the fruit of that work. On that day, along with Fr. Joe, Brian Geoghegan and Paschal Flannery were also ordained, both, being still hale and hearty, thank God. On that day Billy Linnane, Michael Hillery and a Fr. Cunningham from Ennis who was to minister in Canada were also ordained, ball three of whom are gone to God’s eternal care, some time ago.
Ministry in County Clare
Ministry in the diocese of Killaloe saw Fr. Joe at all stages being situated in his native Clare; Kilmaley, Corofin, Cross and here in Doonbeg where he served as PP until July 2008 and continued to serve as AP until last year.
Condolences, Family, Friends, Parishioners
Fr. Joe was predeceased by his brothers Senan and Richard and is deeply regretted by his brothers John, Fr. Gerard, Tom (Coolmeen), sisters Carmel Moloney (Kildysart), Sr. Anne, family, parishioners and friends. We offer our sincere condolences to the bereaved family at this sad time and pray for their consolation at this time of loss.
Prayers and Thanksgiving
We pray in thanksgiving for the life and ministry of Fr. Joe and for the happy repose of his soul during this requiem Mass.
The scriptures of the day, could hardly be more apt for the life and ministry of Fr. Joe if they were hand-picked. From the Prophet Isaiah:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit…
And further from Isaiah:
Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
and again from Isaiah:
I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right;
I have taken you by the hand and formed you;
St. Paul expounds his theology of the afterlife, belief in the Paschal Mystery that we immerse ourselves in this Holy Week:
I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. All I want is to know is Christ and the power of his Resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death.
Gospel of St. John
And further in the Gospel of St. John:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead.
The word of God that Fr Joe, so ardently and stridently believed in and shared so faithfully during his 63 years of ministry. During this Holy Week we enter into the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of the mystery of the life, Cross, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, something that Fr. Joe entered into and shared for so many years of his priestly ministry.
Fr. Joe lived a long and fulfilled life and had a number of definite and clear interests.
He was an accomplished footballer and maintained an avid interest in football right to the end. He was an outstanding Gaelic Footballer and also excelled at soccer. He lined out at mid-field for the Clare minor team against Kerry in 1950. Even though, generally speaking, while Killaloe Diocese was not a soccer stronghold, one of the years while Fr. Joe was at his prime in Maynooth they beat a much fancied team from Derry and won the internal league. Bishop Willie tells me that the catch cry when Joe was advancing with the ball was “spread out – Joe Haugh is coming through”!!! I am told he would go through a stone wall with his determination. This was despite being small in stature, but obviously had great balance and momentum with a low centre of gravity. Fr. Joe loved his game of golf and right up to last year would take off on his own on the outstanding Doonbeg course, that he was so proud of. He played almost every day, at one stage, just a few holes. That was his exercise and daily walk. Fr. Joe would have been impressed and approved highly the sporting allusion of St. Paul in today’s second reading:
I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.
Clare Champion Article
I thoroughly enjoyed an excellent article in the Clare Champion by Peter O’Connell in June 2017 on the occasion of Joe’s diamond jubilee, which captured so much of his interests and drive and motivation as a priest in the various parishes he served.
In his own words and I quote:
“I thank the Lord for the parishes I served in. I was always interested in social development so we got six houses built there in Kilbaha. It was much easier that time. That was 1994. We also promoted religious tourism at the Little Ark. We were getting up to 3,000 per year visiting. In Connolly, we got Fr. Harry Bohan to go in and build 16 houses.”
Fr. Joe was very much at home here in the parish of Doonbeg. He was very proud of the natural beauty of the area and all it had to offer to both locals and visitors alike. He did his best to promote the area and fight for anything that was going in terms of better way of life and the promotion of tourism. Fr. Joe had a great and loyal and steadfast ministry to the sick and elderly and also to the staff and students of the schools of the area. For these and many other reasons he will be sadly missed.
I have no doubt but that Fr. Joe wold have hugely appreciated the amount of people who greeted the funeral cortege yesterday from their homes in Balaha and Doonbeg on his final journey to the Church here in Doonbeg.
Importance of Family
Family was also very important to Fr. Joe and he loved the opportunity to link in with them and return to his native Coolmeen whenever the opportunity arose.
Characteristics and Traits
Fr. Joe was a very distinctive character and had strong and definite views on things. He came to my attention before ever coming to Killaloe where I had heard of him taking issue with a retreat director in Esker. The retreat director may not have been a fan of the new president of the United States, but Fr. Joe was not long offering an alternative view, outlining his views on his positive influence on the economy for Doonbeg!
In my first year in Killaloe I was informed that the AP of Doonbeg was in recovery, as he had fallen off the ladder on his roof while fixing a broken slate. Just a few broken ribs or two(!), but that didn’t mean he was going to miss Mass or any of his duties, even though he was well up in his 80’s. I know I was dealing with a man of steely qualities, tough in a good way with solid determination and resolve.
Dedication to Priesthood
Fr. Joe was a man who took his priesthood seriously. He was a man of faithful prayer and great devoutness who lived simply and in an almost spartan way. His holiday every year was to head to Fatima where he spent his time praying and soaking up the devotional atmosphere of the Shrine.
I am told and it is very clear from his Champion article that he was a man of rock solid traditional views, and that was a constant all his life. He was a private man, who in many ways minded his own business, but was always dutiful, reliable and available when the pastoral need arose.
Faithful and Faithfilled
Bishop Willie Walsh who knew Joe since they were together in Maynooth many moons ago described Fr. Joe as Faithful. Meaning, faithful as being full of faith and also a man faithful to the Church and traditions of the diocese and the wider Church.
In summary he was a good priest, genuine, sincere and will be sadly missed as a character, one of the old stock. Is cinnte nach mbeidh a leithéad arís ann…. He will be sadly missed. Commiserations and condolences to all his family, the parishioners of the various parishes who knew him well. May God have mercy on his soul and the light of heaven to him for eternity. Amen!