09 March 2018

Columban Fr Michael McCarthy RIP

Fr Michael McCarthy
(28 October 1939 - 5 March 2018)

Fr Michael McCarthy was born on 28 October 1939 in Bealnadeega, County Kerry, Ireland, and attended Meentogues National School before going to St Brendan's College, Killarney, and joined the Columbans from there in 1958. 

St Mary's Cathedral, Killarney [Wikipedia]

Ordained in 1964, he was appointed to Korea and after language studies was stationed in the southern Diocese of Gwangju. Within a short time he became diocesan chaplain to the Young Christian Workers (YCW). It was the beginning of a life-long involvement with people on the margins of society.

Heuksando Island [Wikipedia]

Before a home vacation in 1970 Father Michael moved from the city to the island parish of Heuksando, eight hours out into the Yellow Sea. So by the time he took charge of his first parish in Sadangdong, Seoul, in 1975 he was well acquainted with Korea, its culture and language as well as the skills required for ministry there at an anxious time. These were years of agitation and political strife as the Church responded to the needs of the workers and the poor in the expanding urban areas.

St Joseph's Church, Balcurris [Source]

As a committed Kerryman his cultural adaptibility was further enhanced by a four-year appointment to the then Columban parish of St Joseph, Balcurris, Ballymun, Dublin, in 1980. He relished that experience for its opportunity to 'dialogue with the Dubs' and to discover the new Ireland in whose politics and progress he always maintained a keen interest. [Note: Between 1975 and 1979 Kerry and Dublin had played each other in the All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final four times, each winning twice!]

By 1984 Father Michael was back in Korea, in Tobong parish, Seoul, before being asked to develop a new parish in Unamdong in Gwangju. From 1993 he was drawn more into the Columban effort to develop Korea as an independent Region of the Society with its own support base and training programmes for overseas mission. He made lasting friends with supporters all over the country and always kept in touch over the following years. Appointed Vice-Director of the Region of Korea in 2004 he helped to ensure that Korean Columbans would become an essential part or our mission teams around the world.

Myeongdong Cathedral, Seoul [Wikipedia]

Father Mick had the temperament to contribute to mission in a myriad of ways, not least in sitting down to chat and share stories into the night. Ill health began to curtail his ministry in latter years and he returned to Ireland diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2014. Even as his memory deteriorated he never let go of the determination to keep in touch with friends and neighbours even if he could only smile in recognition at the end.

Father Michael died in St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland, on 5 March 2018. He was a friend for life to so many people who were blessed by his care and companionship.

May he rest in peace.                                    [Fr Noel Daly]

St Columban's Cemetery, Dalgan Park

One very poignant moment at the end of the burial, after we sang the Salve Regina was when three Korean women, Columban lay missionaries Lee Kyung-ja, Noh Hye-in and Columban Sister Kim Mihwa sang Arirang, a very old Korean folk song that has many versions in terms of lyrics. The themes of sorrow, separation, reunion, and love appear in most versions. The song has become, in a very real sense, an expression of the 'Koreanness' of the people in both parts of Korea. 

At the removal service (vigil) in the chapel the evening before the burial Fr Anthony O'Brien told us how Father Michael loved to walk in the mountains of Korea. An English translation of one of the many versions of the song contains these lines:

There, over there, that mountain is Baekdu Mountain,
Where, even in the middle of winter days, flowers bloom.

Father Michael loved Korea and its people. May the flowers bloom for him in heaven.

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