Biography

Born      02/12/1931

Ordained: 17/06/1956

His home place was Grange, Stradbally, Co. Laois 

Educated: 

St. Mary’s College, Knockbeg, Carlow

St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

Appointments with Dates: 

CC              Baltinglass           July 1956   –        July 1963

CC/Adm     Carlow                July 1963   –        July 1987

PP               Baltinglass           Aug 1987   –        Aug 1989

PP               Graiguecullen    Aug 1989   –        Aug 2005

PE CC        Graiguecullen    Aug 2005

Funeral Arrangements

Reposing in St. Fiacc’s House on Monday from 4pm.

Removal on Tuesday at 12 noon to repose in St. Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen with Mass at 7.30pm.

Requiem Mass on Wednesday at 11am.

Burial afterwards in SS. Peter & Paul’s Cemetery, Portlaoise.

Homily – Bishop Denis Nulty

We gather in huge numbers this Wednesday morning in early June to pay a faith-filled farewell to a deeply loved and appreciated priest, Fr. John Fingleton.

Fr. Fingleton was born on December 2nd 1931; he has slipped into eternity on this his 84th year – he served his priesthood within a relatively small area of the Diocese – strongly absorbed in the story of Carlow, of Graiguecullen and of Baltinglass – and he was fondly loved in all three places.

A priest for 59 years – a priest whose greatest gift to the people and places where he worked was ‘his presence’, his sense of being a priest in the ebb and flow of peoples lives, on days of joy and sorrow, victory and defeat, birth and death.

When we talk about bi-location we might think of Padre Pio – Fr. Fingleton I suggest had the gift of multi-location!

He had that ability to appear in several places at the one time; on the one evening or on the one day.

While his curriculum vitae might mention his education out at Knockbeg and later at Maynooth, it fails to tell the quality of education he received in Maynooth in order to minister in the Ireland of the mid 50’s.

He left Maynooth excelling in Philosophy, and perhaps it was this grounding in philosophy that allowed him to understand humankind in a unique and a special way.

Every curriculum vitae will have gaps because in honesty a c.v. can never tell the whole story.

You the people of Graigue, of the Cathedral and of Balto became part of that story of priestly dedication that stretched well over half a century.

As someone who is not yet two years in the Diocese, I am keenly aware that there are many more who could more ably and knowledgably honour the memory of Fr. Fingleton in perhaps a more rounded and complete way.

But I do know the essence of what makes a good priest and John Fingleton had it in abundance.

I recall the funeral of an aunt of my own, when walking out of Ballapuesta Cemetery in Ardee Parish, my older brother Christy reminded me that one of the hidden responsibilities undertaken on ordination day is that of burying one’s own family.

And perhaps that responsibility extends with episcopal ordination to the responsibility of burying ones own priests.

Just as a priest will dutifully look after his parishioners in their moments of joy and their times of sadness – a Bishop equally must accompany his diocesan priests in the same rhythm of life and death.

On reflection, I don’t think it was any mere accident of date, event or time that Fr. John Fingleton slipped into the arms of his maker last Sunday evening.

Sunday by date was the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in fact it is from that feastday that I chose todays gospel from St. Luke.

A gospel that paints a picture of an encounter between two women, Mary and Elizabeth.

If there is anything that the priest John Fingleton will be remembered for it was his capacity, his commitment, his concentration on home visitation.

He seemed to be in no rush, he gave people time – and they knew that here was a priest who was interested in them, in their story, in their magnificat of life.

I am also reliably told that he found it hard to do the most basic household chores, even as simple as boiling a kettle, then again he didn’t need to boil the kettle himself, he had the cup of tea already on his rounds!

Returning to the timeliness of his death – it was the feast of the Trinity and such a feast roots us in the relationship of Father, Son & Spirit.

The great preacher Cardinal O’Connor of New York preached on the Trinity with a homily entitled: “God tells us something about himself[1].

Fr. John Fingelton’s example of priesthood told us a lot about himself, it was as I said earlier the essence of the man.

People have used phrases that we can bandy about sometimes too easily but not in Fr. Fingleton’s case  … “a saintly man” … “a great priest” … “well read” … “a humble man” … “highly humorous”.

The last point relates to his Wedding Jokes and as the comedian Brendan Grace might add: “it’s the way you tell them”.

Why? Because in his celebration of the Mass Fr. John would be so prayerful, not in any sanctimonious way, but because he was very much at one with the shepherd.

In the wedding reception, a guest might have to take a second glance to wonder if it was the same priest as Fr. Fingleton delivered his Wedding Speech.

Unlike the current RTE series he needed no tutor and no mentor!

Perhaps the most infamous story he would tell was of the Presbyterian Minister who put a sign up over his church that read: “If you are tired of sin, Come in!

Well the Catholic lads coming home from the pub on Friday evening added the line: “If you are not tired of sin, Ring Mary on 0000” and the number would be repeated by Fr. Fingleton  with the same dead pan sincerity, making the humour all the more infectious!

Of course he laughed at his own jokes and that made him hugely comforting for many people who might find the church at times stuffy or at best tired.

Many associations or groups too numerous to mention are identified with Fr. Fingleton – the Swimming Pool who were due to mark their 21st Anniversary on Monday last – Fr. John’s death appropriately put paid to that celebration until a later date in the diary.

The Carlow & District Soccer League – Fr. John was still at the time of his death President of it; his establishing of the Youth Centre on the Green Lane; the famous Youth Centre Band; his bringing of the Novena first to the Cathedral and he was instrumental in a conversation over lunch with Fr. John Dunphy in proposing the novena here in Graiguecullen, now in it’s ninth most successful year.

In Dermot O’Brien’s most recent photographic book of Old Carlow, John Fingleton is the most photographed priest between the pages … two photographs worth mentioning are the opening of St. Laurence O’Toole track in 1982[2] and the opening of the aforementioned Youth Centre in 1970[3].

In that snap he is trying his hand at netting a basketball with Mother Berchmans, Sr. Carmel Terry and William Fenlon.

Perhaps the snap that might be remembered best is of Fr. Fingleton with his coat around his shoulders, he seldom put his arms in the sleeves.

But he had absolutely no problem putting his hands deep in his own pockets helping those in real need, no one would ever know just like the visits to the hospital or the sick at home.

Fr. John never stinted the generosity of his ‘presence’ as a priest.

Adapting ever so slightly Luke’s gospel text from the Feast of the Visitation – May 31st – the evening Fr. John died: “Yes, blessed is he who believed that the promise made him by the Lord would be fulfilled”[4].

May he rest in the peace and light of Christ. Amen.

 

[1] O’Connor, John Cardinal: Homily for the Feast of Holy Family, 26.12.1993

[2] O’Brien, Dermot: ‘Old Carlow Photos – The Book’, Turner’s Printing Co. Longford, 2014, pg. 101.

[3] ibid, pg. 97.

[4] Lk. 1:45