Belfast Telegraph

Much-loved priest Patrick Lonergan who made his mark in sport and education in Fermanagh is laid to rest

Canon Patrick Lonergan
Canon Patrick Lonergan
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Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

The Bishop of Clogher has led tributes to Canon Patrick Lonergan, who has died at the age of 88.

Canon Lonergan was much-loved and highly respected in his former parishes all over north and west Fermanagh.

He passed away in the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen last Friday morning after 62 years as a priest.

Canon Lonergan made a huge mark in many areas of life, particularly in education and sport.

His foresight, vision and hard work delivered a post primary school, St Mary's High School in Brollagh, in one of the most rural areas of Northern Ireland back in 1965.

Canon Lonergan was a native of Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, where his family ran the Shirley Arms Hotel.

Following his education at St Macartan's College, Monaghan and St Patrick's College, Maynooth, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Joseph's Church, Carrickmacross, in June 1957 by the then Bishop of Clogher, Dr Eugene O'Callaghan.

He served as curate in Dromore, Co Tyrone (1957-59) before moving to the Fermanagh parishes of Ederney (1959-60), Garrison (1960-77), Irvinestown (1977-81), Newtownbutler (1981-85) and then as parish priest of Belleek-Garrison (Inis Muighe Saimh) from 1985-2006.

In June 2017 he celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination with a special Mass of Thanksgiving in Garrison.

In more recent times, Canon Lonergan moved into residential care in Enniskillen.

In addition to his priestly ministry, Canon Lonergan was also well-known throughout Co Fermanagh for his talents as a GAA player and administrator.

He played for Devenish St Mary's GAA club for 16 years, with whom he won several honours, including a county championship win in the 1963 senior football final when he famously scored three goals from the full-forward berth... and 56 years on his record still stands. Canon Lonergan was renowned for his passion for the Devenish ladies teams and he was a generous benefactor and sponsor since Devenish set up the ladies game in Fermanagh in 1993.

He served as vice-chairman of Fermanagh county board for many years and was also a member of the Ulster Council of the GAA.

Canon Lonergan is survived by his brother John, sisters-in-law Moira and Bernie, nephews, nieces, grandnephews, grandnieces, and cousins.

His funeral took place yesterday in Mary Queen of Peace Church, Garrison, where in his homily Bishop Larry Duffy paid tribute to Canon Lonergan's long years of faithful service as a priest in the diocese.

He said: "Canon Pat Lonergan served for 62 years as priest of Clogher diocese.

"More than half of his priestly life spent here in this parish.

"He loved this place and its people and that love was returned a hundredfold.

"For Canon Pat, Garrison and Belleek was the centre of the world.

"The highpoint of God's creation.

"Canon Pat did not spare himself here. He was very attentive to the sick, visited schools, baptised the young, laid to rest the dead, visited homes and mixed with one and all.

"In his early years he helped to organise carnivals and concerts.

"Here was a man who knew the stars of that scene: Philomena Begley and Big Tom, to mention just two."

Bishop Duffy also acknowledged Canon Pat's great love of Garrison football.

"He rarely missed a match, in his early years as a player and later as a supporter and administrator.

"He loved to talk about his playing days, especially the three goals he scored in the 1963 Fermanagh county final.

"I recall a scene many years ago when two priests invited him to literally go through the goalmouth scenes in slow motion and Fr Pat was happy to do so.

"He also enjoyed a game of golf and a hand of cards.

"Despite his great love of Fermanagh, Fr Pat never lost his link with home in Carrickmacross.

"He was a man ever-faithful to family, and to the town of his birth and ordination."

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