Remains of Bishop Finnegan will be received at Saint Muredach's Cathedral,
Ballina, by Bishop Fleming tomorrow, 27 December, at 4.00pm and he will
repose in the Cathedral until 8.00pm when Solemn Vespers will be said. Fr
Gerry O'Hora, Parish Priest of Ballina, will preside at Solemn Vespers.
Bishop Fleming will celebrate Requiem Mass at 12 noon on Wednesday 28
December at which Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland will preside. Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam,
will perform the committal in the Cathedral grounds.
+FINNEGAN, Thomas Anthony
Thomas Anthony Finnegan was Bishop of Killala from 1987 to 2002. He was
born on 26 August 1925, in the parish of Castlerea, Co Roscommon.
His parents were Patrick Finnegan and Margaret Connaughton.He received his
early education in Runnamoat National School, CBS Primary School, Roscommon
and Summerhill College, Sligo.
Thomas Finnegan was ordained a priest at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth
in 1951. After four years postgraduate studies in education and Canon Law he
taught briefly in Catholic University School, Dublin and in Summerhill
College, Sligo. He was Elphin Diocesan Secretary for three years and then
returned to Maynooth as Dean of Junior House from
1960 until 1966. He was President of Summerhill College from 1966 to 1979.
During these years he presided over major developments in the College in
terms of acquiring new buildings, broadening the curriculum and expanding
student numbers from 400 to 800. He was Chairman of the Catholic
Headmasters Association in the 1970’s and was regarded as one of the leading
educationalists in Ireland at a time when the advent of free secondary
education revolutionised Irish Education. In 1973 he was one of a team
which investigated curriculum development in Scandinavia and Britain on
behalf of IMTEC (International Management Training for Educational Change).
He also served on the Governing Body of Thomond College, Limerick and on the
Co Roscommon Vocational Educational Committee. In 1979 he was appointed
Director of the Galway Regional Marriage Tribunal. In 1982 he became Parish
Priest of Roscommon and in 1985 Vicar General of Elphin Diocese.
The appointment of Thomas Finnegan as successor to Bishop Thomas McDonnell was announced on May 8th 1987 and he was ordained Bishop of Killala in St Muredach’s Cathedral by the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Gaetano Alibrandi on 12 July 1987. Among his first decisions as bishop of Killala was to reform clergy incomes. Another of his first decisions was to organise a two-week conference or renewal course for all the priests together with the new bishop, with the declared purpose of planning for the future and setting priorities for five to ten years. At the end of the two weeks the decided priority was the greater involvement of lay people in the life of the Church. From this came the establishment of the Resource Group for Parish Development in 1991 - a diocesan group made up of priests and religious as well as laymen and laywomen and trained by the Parish Development and Renewal group in Dublin diocese - through which he encouraged active participation by resourcing the establishment and development of Parish Councils and a Diocesan Council. Pope John Paul's document, after the 1987 Roman Synod, Christi Fideles Laici on the vocation and mission of lay people in the Church and the world became the handbook on lay involvement. And from 1995-1999 the parish pastoral programme Renew was launched in the diocese in preparation for Jubilee 2000.
In 1993, he undertook a consultation of the diocese regarding the
re-deployment of priests, changing the number and times of weekend masses and trying to solve anomalies created by parish boundaries, with the findings published in the Report on the Diocesan Consultation, 1994.
In 1993 also he established the Killala Diocesan Mission to Miracema, Brazil
and since then the diocese, in conjunction with other agencies, has
resourced a team of missionaries, priests and laypeople.
The impetus for this development came from a request from Pope John Paul for a more even distribution of priests - the priest-people ratio in Killala
Diocese was 1: 800; in Miracema, it was 1: 10,000 - and the belief that a
missionary outreach was important for Killala diocese.
During his time in Ballina the Pastoral Centre was built (1991) and a huge
renovation of the Cathedral was completed to mark the Jubilee Year 2000.
Though an advocate of calm and measured change and of an unfailing respect for past diocesan traditions and precedents, his fifteen years as bishop were characterised by an imaginative and creative style of leadership that sought to use modern human and technical advances in the service of the gospel.
In the late 1980s when unemployment was high and a new wave of emigration to America denuded the parishes of the diocese of their youth, he sent Fr Martin Keveny to 'walk with' the youth of Ireland in the USA. Later Fr Keveny was joined in New York by Fr Michael Harrison with Fr Gerry O'Donnell going to Boston.
Among his pastoral innovations were: his development of ministry to young
people, including sending Fr Francis Judge to be trained as youth officer;
his appointment of a diocesan communications officer, Fr Brendan Hoban, and the founding and development of the diocesan newspaper, The Vineyard; his facilitation of the founding of Holy Hill Hermitage in 1995 and the Newman Institute in 1998 and the development of courses in theology of marriage and the family, community development and counselling. However his dream of founding a Catholic University - which his predecessor as bishop, Francis Joseph O'Finan, 1835-47, had also contemplated and which had remained in the public consciousness of the diocese - did not materialise and a more modest educational foundation, the Newman Institute, was officially opened by Mrs Mary McAleese, the former President of Ireland, in 2010.
Bishop Finnegan was a member of the Irish Episcopal Commissions for
Education, Emigrants, and Catechetics. He also served on the standing
committee of the Irish Bishops' Conference and the Liaison Committee of the ' Bishops' Conferences of Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland.
An innovator and man of ideas, he encouraged participation, delighting at
one point in finding the principle of subsidiarity at the heart of the
Treaty of Rome. He voted against the Maastricht Treaty. He evinced an
extraordinary commitment to his work as a bishop allied with an exceptional
capacity for work. He will be remembered too for the kindness and respect
with which he treated people.
His publications include: Branch of the Vine, The Furrow Trust, 1966;
Sligo: Sinbad's Yellow Shore, The Dolmen Press, 1977; The Faith of the
Catholic Church, A Summary, Irish edition, Veritas, 2001; Coney Island,
Sligo, Island House, 2005.