The death has occurred of Fr. Gerald O’Dwyer, formerly of West End, Sneem, Co. Kerry, who passed away peacefully on August 2nd, 2022 in the loving care of the staff at Hospice San Luca, Rome. Predeceased by his parents Dan and Sheila, sister Ann Marie, brother John and sister-in-law Mary Assumpta. Dearly loved and sadly missed by his brothers Pat, Michael and David, sister Mary, brother-in-law Mike, sisters-in-law Peggy and Marian, nieces Celine, Áine and Fiona, nephews PJ., Michael, David Daniel, Gerald, Patrick, David and Seán, grandnieces, grandnephews, relatives and many dear friends within the Pallotine Order and elsewhere in Ireland and Italy.
‘May His Gentle Soul Rest In Eternal Peace’
Our brother, Gerry knew from a young age that he wanted to be a Catholic priest. He left home at thirteen and studied with the Christian Brothers.
When the Brothers realized that he was not going to join them, they asked him to leave. He came back to Sneem to finish his studies and settled into life with the family. I was only four when he left so, when he returned home to live with us, it was nice for me to have an opportunity to get to know him better. He was serious, studious, determined, and extremely intelligent.
Every summer, he worked at Parknasilla Hotel as a waiter. There he learned the hotel business inside and out, he enjoyed the work, and made life-long friends, some of whom are here today. Gerry witnessed many happy marriages that came from relationships originating in Parknasilla. When I was old enough to date, he gave me advice to work in a hotel, observe how people worked under pressure, and marry a man who could handle it. I listened, followed that advice, and am happy to say that it has worked so far for almost 44 years.
Gerry continued his search for a religious order that would take in a young man who did not come from a wealthy family and that would allow him to pursue his vocation. The Pallottine Fathers in Thurles, Co. Tipperary answered his call and he was ordained a priest on 7 June 1975. He said his first Mass in this church. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to Rome to continue his studies at the Gregorian University towards a masters in Economics and a doctorate in Divinity. He found his home in the Irish Pallottine House in Rome, the beautiful Basilica de San Silvestro in Capite. His life in San Silvestro with the other Irish priests was complete. He had meaningful work, hope for the future, and good friends in an atmosphere of inclusivity and comradery. Life as a priest means serving on a team and serving in different roles depending on the circumstances or the need.
When one is called to serve in a different capacity or to change roles, one does so willingly. Gerry was called to serve in the Vatican in the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops where he was able to utilize his mastery of several languages. His next call was to serve as Bursar General for the Pallottine Fathers. There he employed his expertise in financial management to help further the fiscal health of the order. The lessons Gerry learned long ago in Parknasilla Hotel were put to good use when he spearheaded the reclamation and conversion of an old building in the center of Rome into a top-class hotel owned and operated by the Pallottine Fathers. If you are ever in Rome, we can highly recommend a stay at Hotel Ponte Sisto.
Anybody who knows Gerry well knows that his language could sometimes be considered a bit “salty”. My other brothers, Patrick, Michael and David are avid golfers and tried to get Gerry to take an interest in the game. Gerry was struggling to make sense of why any sane person would engage in an endless pursuit of a small ball on a large field. On one occasion, while attempting to play with David and Michael, he turned to them, golf ball in hand and said: “you two can take this ball and hit it as far as you can. Then you have to go looking for it. When you find it, you hit it again as hard as you can. Why don’t you just take it into a corner and flake the living you-know-what out of it!” Obviously golf was not his passion!
Gaelic games, however, was another matter entirely. Gerry’s life-long passion for football and his undying support for the Kerry team made him an excellent analyst. He understood the game well and talked in great detail about each play to my other brothers in our family WhatsApp group. The football commentators on Radio Kerry once referred to him as Kerry’s greatest fan in Italy. I think that was a fair representation. Sadly, he was not well enough to see Kerry win the All Ireland Championship recently and return the Sam Maguire Cup to its rightful home.
Gerry would return to Sneem almost every year for a month. Some of his visits were very difficult. One was when he returned to say Mass at our father’s funeral. His sermon gave solace and was kind but it was also hard-hitting and cut close to the bone when he addressed the impact of alcohol on the male population of rural Ireland. Another difficult moment for him was when he said Mass at our mother’s funeral. For many priests, the relationship with his mother is the most cherished, the most sacred, the most loved. Gerry was no exception.
Because of this special relationship, priests try to support each other during the loss of a mother and as many as possible show up to the funeral. Mass here in St. Michael’s was concelebrated by thirteen priests and a bishop. Gerry did well delivering the homily that spoke honestly and glowingly of our
mother. His normally unemotional self almost lost it twice during the service. But he maintained his composure, burying his grief deep inside. Our prayers are that he is reunited with our mother, Shelagh, our father, Dan, our brother, John, our dear sister, Ann Marie who went to her eternal rest just over a year ago, and our sister-in-law, Mary.
Visiting Sneem brought Gerry great joy. His nightly visits to Sneem’s restaurants for dinner and a pint gave him an opportunity to chat with neighbors and friends. He was interested in Sneem, its economic and social development, and he cared deeply for its people. He was blessed to have wonderful neighbors at the West End. One family were kind enough to share their dog with him. Blake, the dog, loved Gerry but loved his new leather shoes even more! Blake gnawed on the shoe and had a good feed. Rather than being annoyed, Gerry recounted the story with joy. He adored dogs and was fortunate to be close to three dogs in Rome. When we visited Gerry in Rome last month, we were so happy to see his eyes light up when one of his favorite dogs jumped in his lap.
Gerry was brutally honest, a trait that sometimes can be misconstrued as uncaring. But he was far from uncaring. I remember visiting San Silvestro in 1981 and wondering where Gerry disappeared to every day after lunch. He dismissed my curiosity and
ignored my questions. I found out from somebody else. Apparently, there was an elderly woman who was unable to leave her house, was ill, and had no money. Gerry would pack a lunch every day and bring it to her. He was keeping her alive. Years later, I asked him why he did not tell me what he was doing. He pointed me to the Bible, Matthew 6:3: “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” In subsequent visits to Rome, I learned from many others how kind he had been, how he had helped them, always quietly without fanfare.
It was fitting that he started and ended the Italian part of his life in San Silvestro. There, in the enveloping and caring atmosphere with two other Irish priests, Fr. Rory Hanly and Fr. John Fitzpatrick, he lived out his days, hampered by his disease but supported by these fine men and others.
We are eternally grateful to Rory and John, to the Pallottine Fathers in Thurles and in Rome, to the people from Sneem and elsewhere who were true friends to Gerry throughout the years, to the staff of Hospice San Luca in Rome who cared for him in his final days, to Fr. Liam O’Brien, the choir and the sacristan for Mass today, and to all the people who have visited us at home, came to the church last night, attended Mass, made a contribution to the Pallottine Fathers in Gerry’s memory, or have sent messages of condolences to my brothers and me through cards, letters, the RIP.ie website, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Viber, and other social media platforms. We are truly moved by your kindness.
Never underestimate the power of your words to provide comfort in times of sadness. We hope you will join us after the funeral in Sneem Hotel.
Gerry was a closed book to many. He was very like my father in that he bottled up his emotions and shared them with few and then only in snippets, diluted, and infrequent. He did not suffer fools, conmen, charlatans, or those with rapacious ambition, all of whom he encountered in his life journey. He was so much more than what his exterior self displayed. He was a devoted son, a loving brother, an engaging uncle, a kind and true friend, a caring and compassionate priest, a brilliant mind, a person who chose to do the right thing even in the face of negative consequences for himself, courageous to a fault, a warrior for the poor and downtrodden, a child of God. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Reposing at St. Michael’s Church, Sneem, on Thursday, August 11th, from 6.00pm to 8.00pm.
Requiem Mass will take place on Friday, August 12th, at 12 noon.
Burial immediately afterwards in Sneem Cemetery.
Fr. Gerald’s Requiem Mass will be livestreamed on www.stmichaelschurchsneem.org and select Streamed Masses, etc. (St. Michael’s)
GERRY DWYER- FUNERAL HOMILY August 12th 2022
We gather today to celebrate in FAITH the death of our family brother Gerald and our Pallottine brother Gerry. Our gathering in Faith for our brother, priest, uncle, relation confrere friend and neighbour does not negate the pain of separation and loss which accompanies Gerry’s passing.
Gerry was extremely well organised so he would insist that I attempt to put some order on these thoughts. Therefore, I will pose three questions and hopefully answer them.
What does it mean for a human to die?
What does it mean for Christ to die?
What does it mean for a Christian to die?
1) What does it mean for a human to die?
A unique person is no longer alive. Gerry changed and transformed the Pallottines internationally. He spent all his priestly life in Rome: at San Silvestro, studying in the Biblicum then work in the Vatican, in the Pontifical Commission for the Family under Bishop (later Cardinal) Jozef Tomko (Czech). He was at the time of his death this week (Monday August 8th) the oldest Cardinal (at 98 years of age). He was buried yesterday. Then he was appointed General Bursar of the Society and moved to the Generalate at Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti. He returned to San Silvestro after retiring from this role due to ill health. Whilst in the Generalate Gerry ministered on Sundays for decades in Casal Palocco. He first went there to accompany Mgr. Frayne when he required assistance in hearing Confessions. During my 2 years living in the International College Gerry took an Indian Osvaldo D’Souza with him as the extra confessor when necessary. On one occasion with Osvaldo not available I was sprung from the substitute’s bench.
Our Pallottine Law informs us that “the General Bursar administers the resources of the Generalate and the Society, as such, in accordance with the Law of the Society.
He participates in the meetings of the Council.
The Bursar in carrying out the administration, is empowered to deal with all matters of material resources within his unit of administration.
God will not replace Gerry. He cannot replace Gerry because there is only one- this particular one whom we gather for here today. Gerry is unique in so many ways but I wonder is he the Kerry person who has attended more All Ireland semi- finals than finals? He came home in August and therefore had usually returned by the 3rd Sunday in September. But his office contained multiple recordings of games posted out.
2) What does it mean for Christ to die?
Christ’s death too was unique. Jesus knew He would die- had to die and was ready to die. From the death of Christ life was born not only for him but for us. Jesus is life: the way, the truth and the life. Gerry with his in-depth knowledge of Scripture would refer to Thessalonians:
We believe that Jesus died and rose again; so, we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have died believing in Him.”
3) What should it mean for a Christian to die?
Death is that moment when the Christ who is life fashions me finally to his life, in His image. Gerry’s death was not surrender: he battled from the time of diagnosis with a fierce determination. We are not enthusiastic about death as Jesus’ ‘Agony in the Garden’ testifies but the tension is not between life and death but between life and life!!
On the afternoon before he died Gerry was heard to say ‘Liberami’ i.e. ‘Free Me.’ Salvation cannot be bought, cannot be earned. It is an entirely free gift, given out of God’s Infinite Mercy. This can be difficult to comprehend but how much more difficult for a Bursar I would wonder? We as Pallottines have received messages from – Argentina, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Rwanda, Germany, United States to name but a few. Gerry, like all of humanity is saved only through the gift of God brought about in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus.
These three episodes in the life of Jesus impact on all of us and we pray today for Gerry that having lived a faithful life in Jesus, having now died with Him, that Gerry will enjoy the fulness of life, light and peace in Christ’s Resurrection.
May he rest in peace and may all his good deeds, seen and unseen go with him.
Fr Liam McClarey SAC, Provincial
Our confrere Gerald Dwyer (Gerry) died earlier today August 2, 2022 at 9.15 am Rome time (8.15 in Ireland) .Gerry was born on October 1st 1948. He took First Consecration on September 12th 1969. Gerry was ordained on June 7th 1975. Please pray for Gerry and his family, and our community in San Silvestro at this time.
God Bless, Liam
Mother Of Divine Love Province
Good morning. I wish to inform you with sadness that P. Gerry Dwyer, our Ex-General Bursar, known to all of us, passed away this morning at 9.15 A.M.P. Gerry had been suffering from Cancer since August 2019. He overcame many critical periods and lived until this morning. P. Gerry has served the Society as General Bursar for more than 30 years. On behalf of the entire Society, I wish to thank him. I wish to express my condolences to Fr. Liam McClarey, the Provincial Rector, and all the members of the Mother of Divine Love Province on this occasion. May the Lord grant eternal peace to Fr. Gerry. R.I.P. fraternally yours,
Jacob Nampudakam SAC
Buongiorno. Desidero informarvi con tristezza che P. Gerry Dwyer, il nostro ex Economo Generale, conosciuto da tutti noi, è deceduto questa mattina alle 9.15.
P. Gerry era malato di cancro dall’agosto 2019. Ha superato molti periodi critici e ha vissuto fino a questa mattina. P. Gerry ha servito la Società come Economo Generale per più di 30 anni. A nome di tutta la Società, desidero ringraziarlo. Desidero esprimere le mie condoglianze a P. Liam McClarey, Rettore Provinciale, e a tutti i membri della Provincia Madre del Divino Amore in questa occasione. Il Signore conceda la pace eterna a p. Gerry. R.I.P.
fraternamente in San Vincenzo,
Jacob Nampudakam SAC