THE founding principal of St Patrick’s College, Maghera has passed away at the age of 92.
Father Philip Donnelly, believed to be the oldest priest in the Derry Diocese, passed away at Nazareth House, Fahan, on Monday.
He was buried yesterday (Wednesday) on what would have been his 93rd birthday, following Requiem Mass at St. Joseph’s Church, Fincairn, Feeny.
He was later laid to rest at St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church, Ballymonie, Foreglen.
Rev Donnelly headed the Maghera college for the first 11 years of its existence.
He started the school in 1963 with just 105 pupils, that has grown to over 1300 today.
“He was the one who started the school, introduced O-levels and A-levels and built it up in terms of its reputation,” St Patrick’s principal Anne Scott said.
“He was a highly intelligent man and very hands on. Without him the school would not be here.”
Born on March 13, 1920, in Portrush, in the Diocese of Down and Connor, Philip Donnelly attended St. Patrick’s Primary School, Portrush, before commencing his second level education at St. Columb’s College in Derry.
He later studied for the priesthood at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and also undertook studies at the University of Grenoble in France.
On June 18, 1944, Fr. Donnelly was ordained a priest at St Columb’s College.
He was appointed to the staff of St. Columb’s in 1945 and remained at the Bishop Street school until 1963 when he was appointed to the staff of St. Patrick’s High School, Maghera.
In 2006, Fr. Donnelly retired and spent his remaining years in Nazareth House, Fahan.
Right Rev. Mgr. Eamon Martin, Dioecesan Administrator, also paid tribute to Fr. Donnelly.
“Fr Phil served the people of the Diocese of Derry with dedication, both in parish ministry and education, for many years,” he said.
“His death is deeply regretted by the retired bishops, priests and people of the diocese.”