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Tributes for popular Derry monk Fr John McNamara who passed away after contracting Covid-19


Fr John McNamara contracted virus while in hospital

Fr John McNamara contracted virus while in hospital

Fr John McNamara contracted virus while in hospital

A popular Derry priest who died after contracting Covid-19 in hospital has been laid to rest.

Fr John McNamara (81), who had no underlying health conditions, was admitted to the Ulster Hospital in February for surgery on his back.

He was recovering and had been transferred to Musgrave Park Hospital as part of his recuperation.

But it is believed he contracted the virus there and passed away on Thursday.

Fr John, originally from Scotland, was a member of the Carmelite Order and was well-known and much-loved by thousands of people in Londonderry, where he spent the past 15 years at Iona Retreat Centre (Termonbacca).

He had a particular calling for the sacrament of confession and many came to Termonbacca to receive absolution from him.

Prior at Termonbacca Fr John Grennan paid tribute to the popular monk.

He said: "Fr John loved Derry and loved the people of Derry and was very loved and respected by the people of Derry, especially for his confessional ministry.

"We have been taking so many phone calls from people, many in tears who have been greatly saddened at his passing.

"He was a priest in the outskirts of Glasgow but came to the Carmelite Order in 1990 and moved to Derry in 2005, and although he was 81, he was fit and healthy with no intention of retiring from ministry."

Fr Grennan described Fr John as "the anchor man of the community", adding: "He was someone who loved to chat, he was someone you could always depend on and certainly he wasn't someone who intended to stop his ministry.

"He had no intention of retiring, in fact he was organising a pilgrimage to Lourdes in August, as he did every year, and he would have led this along with another priest from the Order in Dublin.

"Our hope was he would recuperate fully even though it would have been a long road, but he was recovering well and was rehabilitating in Musgrave Hospital, where they noticed something was wrong.

"Not too long after he contracted the virus he passed away, but the chaplain from the hospital was able to give him the last rites, so at least he did get that consolation."

Before the coronavirus control measures came into effect the Catholic Apostolic movement Cursillo based its weekend retreats at Termonbacca, greatly assisted by Fr John.

President of the Derry branch of Cursillo Aoife O'Neill said: "Fr John was small in stature but a real big presence in the lives of so many people. He had such a vibrancy about him, no one would ever have guessed he was the age he was.

"He was always on hand to help during our Cursillo weekends, particularly with confessions, where he was amazing.

"So many people would only go to Fr John for confessions because he would always listen, give good counsel and guidance.

"The suddenness of his death, the sadness of this whole situation and that we won't be able to pay our final respects, is without a doubt adding to people's grief and will add to our sense of loss.

"It is sad for us but we can take great comfort in the knowledge he is one person for sure who is definitely enjoying his Heavenly rewards.

"For a monk who lived a cloistered life, he was very present and always made himself very available and he will be greatly missed, and not just by the people of Derry."

Belfast Telegraph