Fermanagh born priest, Fr Gary Donegan is set to leave his position as rector, and parish priest in Holy Cross Church, Ardoyne, Belfast after 15 years. The cleric has announced that he will be making the move to Tobar Mhuire retreat in Crossgar, Co Down.
Speaking yesterday (Tuesday), Fr Gary Donegan expressed his appreciation to the parish of Ardoyne.
“I am very sorry to be leaving, it is home to me now. This is very much a cutting off from the pastoral end of things, because I won’t be involved in the funerals, baptisms, weddings and the heart of parish life. I have never worked with more sincere, honest and salt of the earth people. They would literally give you the bite out of their mouth.”
During his 15 years at Holy Cross Church, Fr Donegan has built up a connection with his congregation. He arrived at the start of 2001 and Fr Gary has made the headlines on several occasions during his time at Holy Cross Church, Ardoyne.
He has received death threats, helped those involved in numerous violent incidents and engaged in talks in an attempt to improve community relations. Not willing to fully detached himself from the North Belfast parish, Fr Donegan will keep an office in the area and will continue to be a vital member of the community.
“I am going to be commuting back and forward on a daily basis. The difference is I will have an idyllic place to go, rest and sleep at night. I will miss the sense of the late night calls and being out there for people but I am going to be there on a daily basis.”
“There has been very emotive times, I remember on one occasion breaking down during mass and as I was struggling to say the words, they said the words, they prayed the words out loud. Afterwards I was smothered with hugs and kisses and you are very much part of them and that daily, I will miss,” said Fr Donegan.
In four weeks time, the Newtownbutler man will take up his position at Tobar Mhuire retreat. Fr Aidan Troy will take over as parish priest at the Holy Cross Church.
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Posted: 8:33 am September 7, 2016