Good afternoon everyone and good afternoon to all those joining us via the Diocesan webcam.
Today we celebrate the life of our brother Séamus.
Our family, was always very important to Séamus and its fitting today that we should remember our father Jimmy, our mother Bridget, our sister Maureen and our brother Martin in our thoughts and in our prayers.
On 23rd February 1944 Séamus was born to our humble parents Jimmy and Bridget in the parish of Mullinahone. A short time later the family moved to Coolaghmore, Callan, Co. Kilkenny. Our sister Maureen was born in 1945 and was taken to heaven in her infancy.
Our parents went on to have 6 other children and the family became a happy and close unit of nine, with Maureen always in our thoughts and prayers. We were a Catholic family and the minimum requirement was a
rosary every evening after tea, confession on a monthly basis and of course mass every Sunday.
Our home in Coolaghmore was a large three storey house. We lived on the ground floor. In the cellars we stored firewood and our bicycles and the rest of that floor we used as a playground. The first floor consisted of 5 large rooms, one was for storing cooking apples, one was our handball alley and the other three were playrooms.
We always had a deck of playing cards in the house and one of the highlights on a Christmas night was a game of 25’s. As there were 9 of us we had a natural 3 threes, so we gathered round the kitchen table and had a draw for partners. Then the game commenced and went into the early hours of the morning with the eventual winners getting their coveted prize of a full bar of chocolate each.
This seemed to have triggered a gambling streak in Séamus, as one day he challenged our mother to drink a bottle of stout. Mum was a teetotaller, so thinking he was on a dead cert, he suggested a wager of a ten shilling note.
After some contemplation the challenge was accepted and Mum sat down and inhaled her first and only bottle of Guinness. The ten shilling note was duly handed over with a smile and I can assure you, it was accepted with a much larger smile.
Mum never drank again but on that day with a couple of mouthfuls of Guinness, she taught Séamus a very important lesson.
Séamus completed his primary school education in Coolagh national school and started his secondary schooling in Callan CBS. In his early teenage years he realised he had a vocation and expressed his wish to join the priesthood.
Our parents immediately took this on board and following consultation with a member of the clergy in Mullinahone and a doctor in Callan, they decided that a religious order would be best for Séamus and they secured a place for him in the Pallottine Fathers College in Thurles.
On entering the Pallottine College he was enrolled in Thurles CBS to complete his secondary schooling. Following his honours leaving certificate results, the Pallottines sent him for further studies to UCD.
Séamus was ordained in 1971 and to satisfy his appetite for knowledge he was sent to America for further studies. He remained a very active member of the Pallottine Community, with many, many achievements including spending 12 years as their Rector General.
In 2007 he was ordained Bishop of Ossory and served the people of the Diocese until 2016 when he retired due to ill health. The Confirmation season was always a highlight of those years. During these years, he was ably assisted by the staff of the diocesan office, Fran and Sheila, whom he referred to at his own retirement as, his work family.
Since Séamus’s retirement in 2016, he has been cared for with great love and affection, at home by his sisters Esther and Mary, in the Pallottine College, Thurles by Father George, his community and staff and in Dublin by the staff in Highfield Healthcare until last weekend.
The family unit was of great importance to Séamus and through letters and phone calls he always kept in contact with his parents and with his siblings. His annual holidays were always based in the family home, and somehow in those short weeks he managed to spend time with the Pallottine community and he visited his relations, friends and neighbours. He always had time for everybody and on Sunday mornings he said the 9 o’clock mass in his beloved Coolagh church.
During Séamus’s life he had many great achievements throughout the world and always treated everyone with respect and dignity. He also insisted on making time to maintain his role in the Freeman family unit.
He always kept up to date with everything that was going on in our family and in all our lives and was always available, to any of us, for support if required.
Sport was a large factor in our family and there was always footballs and hurleys available to us and many the fine game of hurling was played in the field in front of our house.
Séamus was a very keen sportsman. He competed in all sports that were made available to him, including hurling, football, handball, tennis, table tennis, badminton and golf. Hurling was his first love and we were fortunate enough to meet some of his Thurles CBS classmates on Wednesday. Apparently he was a tough opponent, both skilfully and physically, and always proudly wore his Kilkenny jersey in the midst of the many blue and gold ones. It was an experience to sit or stand beside Seamus at a hurling match and to witness his passion for the sport. It was all the better if it was Kilkenny v Tipperary and the Cats came out on top.
Séamus was a leader, he was a servant, and many, many tributes have been paid to him in recent days. There is one tribute on rip.ie which was signed by a Kilmacow Parishioner and I think it really sums up what Seamus was to the members of the Diocese of Ossory, and I’d like to read it:
“Rest in Peace Bishop Seamus. You were always such a kind and gentle human being. You are fondly remembered to this day in our parish especially from your visits for Confirmation. You spoke with the good people regardless of who we were. You made us all feel as if we mattered. You were a very special human being. You were one of us and we were with you as our Bishop. Thank you Bishop Seamus and God bless you and all that you did. May the light of heaven shine upon your gentle and prayerful soul, Amen”