22 December 2015

Columban Fr John Vincent Gallagher RIP

Fr John Vincent Gallagher
(24 December 1923 - 18 December 2015)

Fr John Vincent Gallagher, known to his fellow Columbans as 'John V', died peacefully on 18 December 2015 in St Columban’s Nursing Home, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland.  Born on 24 December 1923, in Glasgow, Scotland, but raised in Dún Lúiche (Dunlewey), Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore), County Donegal, Ireland. 

St Andrew's Catholic Cathedral, Glasgow [Wikipedia]

He was educated in Dunlewey National School, Meenaclady National School, and St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny. He went to St Columban's, Dalgan Park, in 1944 and was ordained there on 21 December 1950.

Poison Glen, near Dunlewey [Wikipedia]

Assigned to the Philippines, he had a series of appointments in his first three years to Silang, Cavite, Lingayen and Olongapo, and this was followed by a four-year stint as assistant in Malate Church, Manila. In 1960 he was appointed to Student Catholic Action in the Archdiocese of Manila. His capacity for relating with young people, his sense of humour and his dedication meant that he was very successful in this ministry where he spent the next eleven years. He then spent four years as Chaplain at Makati Medical Centre where he was deeply appreciated by both patients and staff.

Nuestra Señora de Remedios, Our Lady of Remedies
Malate Church, Manila [Wikipedia]

This was followed by a period as Director of the Student Pastorate in Baguio City; at the same time he proved a generous host as he took charge of the Columban Vacation House in that city. 

Baguio City [Wikipedia]

After Baguio, it was back to the lowlands again, with years spent first in Morong and later in Jalajala, Rizal, before being assigned once more to Malate, Manila.

In 1990, he was appointed to the Mission Promotion Team in Ireland. His abiding interest in people, his extraordinary memory for names and his gift for relating to young schoolchildren, made him a very valuable asset to the team. He returned once more to the Philippines in 1995 and spent his last three years there in pastoral work. When he returned to Ireland in 1998, he was available for all sorts of tasks, including radio interviews, in Irish and English, on all news events to do with the Philippines.

Father John V.  was a dedicated missionary, a fascinating companion and  a unique character. People who met him once never forgot him. He will be sadly missed by all of us. He was buried on 21 December from the chapel in St Columban's where he had been ordained priest exactly 65 years before.

May he rest in peace. Ar dheis  go raibh a anam uasal - May his noble soul be on the right hand of God.

The obituary, slightly edited here, was written by Fr Cyril Lovett.

Fr Patrick Raleigh, Regional Director of the Columbans in Ireland, mentioned in an email that the lunch after the burial was followed by a sing-song mostly of songs dealing with Donegal. The song above, The Green Fields of Gweedore, is sung by Clannad, the members of which are from the place. The opening line refers to the townland where Father John V grew up: Down past Dunlewey's bonnie lakes.

Gleanntáin Ghlas' Ghaoth Dobhair, 'The  Green Glens of Gweedore', is sung by Altan, the lead singer of which, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, is also a native of this beautiful place. She sings in Irish (Gaelic), Father John V's native tongue, the ancestral language of most Irish people. The readings at the funeral Mass and the traditional decade of the Rosary at the graveside were in Irish. 

Both songs are songs of exile about the singer's native place and both videos show scenes around Gweedore.

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