Tribute is paid to Father Sean

A POPULAR former Filey Catholic Priest has died, aged 76.

Father Sean O’Donnell, who spent 14 years at St Mary’s Church, passed away in Ireland after suffering from an illness.

Fr O’Donnell retired and moved back to his native Ireland in June last year to concentrate on chaplaincy work after 50 years in the Priesthood.

Growing up on his parents’ farm in County Donegal, Fr O’Donnell studied at St John’s, in Waterford, and was ordained in June 1959.

After moving to England, Fr O’Donnell, who was a keen golfer, became curate at St Bede’s in East Hull and then St Alphonsus Church in North Ormesby, near Middlesbrough and Our Lady of Lourdes, in Hessle.

He became parish priest at St Stephen’s Church in Hull in 1975 before serving at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, in Market Weighton, between 1981 and 1984, and St Pius X, in Middlesbrough, moving to St Mary’s in Filey in 1995.

Speaking to The Mercury upon his retirement, Fr O’Donnell said he had thoroughly enjoyed his time in the church and in Filey.

He said: “It has been a great experience in Yorkshire and I don’t regret any of it for a moment.

“I will be sad to leave and it will be a wrench to go because I feel like I should be a Yorkshireman because of the time I’ve spent here and the Yorkshire puddings I’ve eaten.

“It has been an unforgettable experience and I would like to thank all of the people for their support because I will take many memories with me and treasure their affection forever.

“I would also like to thank the support from the bishops, clergy and laity that I have received because they were a tonic that I will forever appreciate.

“One of the biggest things I shall take with me is how people have learned to get on with other faiths, there is much more tolerance today and the friendship of people in Filey has been a big thing too.”

The Rt Rev Terence Drainey, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough, which includes Filey, travelled to Ireland for the reception of Fr O’Donnell’s mortal remains into his local parish ahead of his burial last week and celebrated Mass for him at St Mary’s Church on Wednesday.

A spokesman from the Diocese of Middlesbrough paid tribute to Fr O’Donnell’s tireless work and compassionate demeanour.

He said: “Throughout his priestly ministry, Fr O’Donnell assumed numerous additional tasks and in his early years was an energetic promoter of and chaplain to the Young Christian Workers.

“Later, he was truly appreciated and esteemed by the Union of Catholic Mothers as he served them as Diocesan chaplain.

“It would be unusual not to meet Fr O’Donnell on the Annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes.

“Indeed he participated in many pilgrimages, and found time to be present at most local and national Catholic gatherings including seeing Pope Benedict at Cofton Park, Birmingham.

“It would be true to say Fr O’Donnell expended his energies in building up the Faith, the prayer life and community spirit of the parishes in which he served.

“In his final appointment, at St Mary’s Filey, he oversaw the building of the Parish Hall and maintained contact with his brother priests often on the golf course.

“The Diocese owes a debt of gratitude for his service and expresses prayerful sympathy to his brother Seamus, his sisters, Sister Bridge, Anna and Moira, and extended family and friends.”