Glowing tributes for ‘vibrant, fearless and popular’ priest

The Very Rev. Andrew McNally, who passed away on September 6th.
The Very Rev. Andrew McNally, who passed away on September 6th.

A FORMER Cookstown priest who passed away last week has been described as “vibrant, fearless and passionate” by the Irish Cardinal of the Catholic Church.

Father Andrew McNally, a one-time curate of Holy Trinity Church, passed away on Thursday, September 6th after an 18 month battle with a brain tumour. The Magherafelt born priest was laid to rest at the cemetery of the Church of St John, Milltown following a funeral mass at The Church of Our Lady of The Assumption, Magherafelt on Sunday. He was just 52 years-old at the time of his death.

At the emotional gathering, Cardinal Sean Brady paid tribute to the energetic cleric with a “zest for life” who was “passionate” about his work.

“Zest for life – abundance of energy – fullness of enthusiasm – these are the kind of things I will always associate with Father Andrew,” the Cardinal said in his homily.

“His zest for life, as a priest, was to be seen, for example, by his eagerness to qualify himself ever better and better, to carry out the sacred task of announcing God’s saving word. Hence his visits to places like Boston College and his enthusiasm for Adult Faith Formation.

“He was one of the physically fittest priests in this diocese – running marathons – playing football – bouncing up and down stairs. He loved life. He loved life as a priest. So, he fought this long and valiant battle to hold onto life.”

“His sickness changed everything. He, the ever youthful, the champion, was gradually reduced to weakness – unable to open an eyelid – not fit to lift a finger.”

The popular priest, who also spent time in Pomeroy parish, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in December 2010. Before his illness took hold he was enjoying his role as Director of the Office of Pastoral Renewal and Family Ministry in Armagh Diocese.

Father McNally was also a member of the 2009 Advisory Group for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development at the Irish Episcopal Conference, and played a key role in helping a book exploring the prime issues of that conference for publication.

In addition, Father McNally co-authored the book ‘Parish Pastoral Councils – A Formation Manual’, described by Cardinal Brady as “a beacon of hope for the Church”.

He went into the priesthood 29 years ago, studying in St Joseph’s Seminary Belfast and the Irish College, Rome, where he used to look forward to visits from his mother Patricia.

After his diagnosis in 2010 he moved in with his brother Liam, in Magherafelt, and was cared for by his relatives including brothers Michael, Liam and Patrick, and sister Therese. He underwent brain surgery in 2011, and spent some time in the Macmillan Palliative Care Unit opened in March this year with his illness.

In a special tribute to his brother, Liam, who is one of the province’s District Judges, gave thanks and support to the Macmillan Palliative Care Unit at Antrim Area Hospital that helped the priest in his final months.

Mr McNally had written a piece for the MAIL on the high quality standard of care given to his brother shortly before he passed away. The judge said he wanted the piece used to highlight the important role it plays in the lives of those facing terminal illness, and their families.

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