Death of Fr. Phil MacNamara SAC R.I.P.

Fr Philip McNamara, SAC, (1931-2017).

Readings Requiem Mass: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; 1 John 3:1-2 and John 12:23-26

In our Pallottine Community Prayer Book every evening there are three questions/reflections  with the word ‘pause’ printed for thought or consideration. On Tuesday evenings we read ‘Let us consider that one day we must die. Let us pray for faithfulness and a happy death.’ There then arguably follows the shortest pause of the entire week.

There was something strange about celebrating Mission Sunday in the weekend just gone.  Phil Mc Namara was, is and will be one of our Province’s great missionaries. He had and retained a huge capacity for work wherever he was appointed. Whilst stories and memories have emerged from Argentina over the weekend I think it is fair to say that it is in the United States that most of the stories and memories are based. There’s a verse in the Old Testament reading that bears particular attention today: ‘a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what has been planted’ or as John O’Donohue might say ‘Bloom where you are planted’ whether it was here in Killoscully, in Argentina or in his beloved Stephenville, Texas.  Phil not only blossomed but helped innumerable others to bloom and that is an outstanding quality in him and a feature of his life. It was never about himself.

Fr Phil was ordained on June 12 1958 and was first appointed to Argentina: Mercedes and Suipacha were his places and then in 1972 he was appointed to Lubbock in Texas. Seminole, Stephenville, Granbury and Weatherford were other placements and then in 1998 he returned again to Stephenville. Between August 1978 and February 2015 Phil was appointed there three times.

Stephenville is a vast territorial parish of 4,800 square kilometres! or 1,823 square miles! That’s a large area to cover, there are four worship sites as the Americans call them or four Churches – in Stephenville, Dublin, De Leon and Comanche, plus he cared for Catholic students at Tarleton University in Stephenville. Our Pallottine history books tell us that it is 36 miles or 58 kilometres  from Stephenville to Comanche. Killoscully to Shannon is closer – so is Killoscully to Thurles. From here to Urlingford is less than two miles further; or to Ennis is maybe five miles more.  This was the territory in which Fr Phil bloomed. Indeed the family tell me that on a Facebook page set up since Phil died there are almost one thousand messages in Spanish and English remembering  him fondly.

We Pallottines are the Society of the Catholic Apostolate. The word Apostolate implies work! Fr Phil Mc Namara could never be accused of shirking the apostolate or his pastoral care of the people. He preceded the often quoted statement of Pope Francis to the ordained: ‘Preach: and if necessary use words.’

We Irish can be accused of being obsessed with the weather and it forms a good part of many daily conversations. Last week we experienced Hurricane Ophelia and some people unfortunately died directly as a consequence of this hurricane hitting Ireland- the worst in fifty years.  There could be another hurricane long after some of us are gone but I doubt if any of us will ever encounter such a human force as Fr Phil again in this lifetime.

One of a kind; – kind and generous, loyal, determined and maybe even at times head-strong. If he thought you were right he backed you publically and it didn’t matter who was on the other side. If he thought you were wrong (or in his mind if he knew you were wrong) you knew. There was no ambiguity in Phil. If you didn’t know what Phil Mac was saying you were not listening – so he would tell you again, making sure you were paying attention on this occasion.

Next May we Pallottines will mark 200 years since the Ordination of our Founder St Vincent Pallotti. There will be articles, publications and talks on the theme. In our Vigil for Phil we prayed: ‘Confident that God always remembers the good we have done and forgives our sins let us pray, asking God to gather Fr Phil to himself.’  But I doubt if any of us will ever know how many good deeds Phil carried out, how many Sacraments Fr Phil performed, Baptisms, Confessions,  Weddings, Funerals, Anointing of the Sick, Masses said for and with people.  Then you add in all the Quinceneras, the times spent with and given to people individually or in their own families, preparing them, accompanying them, journeying with them, praying with and for them, or all the time he spent looking out for people, caring for people, fighting for their rights.  Phil Mac was generally to be found on the side of the underdog.

As his family he has always returned to you, to his roots, either from Argentina or the United States. This is a great testimony to you and I wish here on behalf of the Province to thank you for taking such great care of Phil in health and in sickness. Our families  receive us back, shelter us and care for us in so many ways and Phil knew that he was extremely well looked after by his immediate and extended family and he let us know that, so I’m certain you know that too. Well, if he told you, then you know!

Fr Phil will be remembered in so many ways by so many people and it is important that we keep his memory alive; that we share stories about him. The same story told one day may make us smile and the same story on another day might bring a touch of sadness as we begin to grasp the enormity of our loss.  Indeed we may even remember something long forgotten or hear a new story about him. It is proper that we honour Fr Phil today with Christian burial and that we pray for him. It is however important I believe that we continue to pray for him into the future. One Saint tells us that one Hail Mary said well has infinite value. We might therefore add Fr Phil to our list or perhaps begin a new one by praying for him.

May God listen favourably to our prayers, offered on behalf of His servant and priest and grant that Fr Phil McNamara who committed himself zealously to the service of His name, rejoice for ever in the company of your Saints. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Fr Liam McClarey, SAC.


October 20, 2017

Fr. Phil MacNamara died today at midday in the Regional Hospital in Limerick, may he rest in peace.
Phil was born on July 16th 1931, he made his first consecration on September 12th 1953 and was ordained to the priesthood on June 12th 1958.
He suffered a bleed to the brain on Tuesday October 17th and the damage to his brain was irreversible. He died peacefully today. Please remember Fr. Phil in your prayers.

Death Notice from

The death has occurred of Fr. Philip S.C.A. MCNAMARA
Killoscully, Newport, Tipperary

McNamara, Fr. Philip S.C.A.. Killoscully, Newport, Co. Tipperary and late of Stephenville, Texas, U.S.A. 20th October 2017 in the University Hospital, Limerick. Deeply regretted by his fellow priests of the Pallotine order, his sisters, brothers, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, relatives and many friends in Ireland and Stephenville, Texas.

Rest in Peace.

Reposing at Meehan’s Funeral Home, Newport this Monday evening 23rd October from 5.30 p.m. with removal at 8 p.m. to the Sacred Heart Church, Killoscully. Requiem Mass on Tuesday, 24th at 12 noon. Burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery. Family flowers only please, donations if desired to Autism Ireland.