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Very Rev Seán (Jack) O’Laoghaire PE, RIP

Funeral Arrangements

In line with government guidelines and HSE guidelines regarding public gatherings, a private Funeral Mass will take place on Monday 16th August at 2pm.

Requiem Mass can be viewed on link below


Date of Birth: 17th October 1923

Ordained: 5th June 1949


CC Clane: 1949-1955

CC Carlow: 1955-1974

Adm Carlow: 1974-1978

PP Paulstown/Goresbridge: 1978-1996

CC Paulstown/Gorsebridge: 1996-2002

Retired in 2002.

Fr Jack was the oldest priest in our Diocese and the last remaining member of the 1949 Class from Maynooth.

May his gentle soul rest in peace.

Requiem Mass: An tAth. Sean O’Laoghaire: 16.08.21, Church of the Assumption, Paulstown @ 2.00pm


We gather in the Church of the Assumption, Paulstown for the Funeral Mass for the late Fr. Jack O’Leary (An tAth. Seán O’Laoghaire). He was our oldest Kildare & Leighlin priest. That mantle now falls on Fr. Colum Swan.

Fr. Jack bore his age well. My prayers and thoughts are with you An tAth. Seán’s nephews and nieces, his brother priests and many friends. I welcome the many who are following today’s Requiem through you-tube. I thank Fr. Jimmy and all here in Paulstown who have made that possible. A special appreciation and welcome for the staff and residents at Gowran Abbey which was his home for the past nine years who join us through you-tube.

This COVID pandemic has determined a very different celebration than we all would have wished for this day. But Paulstown was always the place that Fr. Jack wished to return to having chosen his resting place among you years back. He served here from 1978 – 2002, his last seven years as curate. Earlier appointments were in Clane where he served for the first six years after ordination and of course Carlow town, curate there from 1955-1974 and Administrator from 1974-1978.

While Fr. Jack retired from active ministry in 2002 he continued until the very end a ministry of pastoral care among the staff and patients in Gowran Abbey. He regularly spoke with me about replenishing his sacramental oil stocks. Saturday morning last the Lord had other ideas and An tAth. Seán was taken gently into his leaba i measc na Naomh, his bed among the Saints.

As we gather in prayer with our memories and our stories, let us pause immersing them into the story of the life, death and resurrection of Christ as we call to mind our sins …


The rich man in the gospel asks the question which many of us ask: “what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?” . It’s the perennial question. Where we will go after this life? It was a question that someone like Fr. Jack might have been expected to ask, but in the end he was in great peace. As it came closer to that end he began speaking only in Irish. His final words to Mairéad on Friday evening, when she enquired how he was doing, he replied: “Tá mé sásta” (I am happy / I am satisfied).

An tAth. Seán was ordained from the Maynooth class of 1949. Bishop Tom Keogh chose to ordain Jack and his two Maynooth co-diocesans Dan Deady and Kieran O’Byrne with the twenty Carlow College students in the College Chapel at St. Patrick’s on Whit Sunday, June 5th 1949. All the Carlow College students were for ministry in foreign lands. Fr. Jack is the last of the Maynooth class of 1949 to possess eternal life. It is thought that as Bishop Keogh like Fr. Jack was a native of Graignamanagh, he wished to ordain the three Maynooth men which included then two Kilkenny men (Jack and Dan Deady). The first of the Maynooth ordination class of 1949, a class of 77, a priest from Cloyne died in 1964. Our own Dan Deady died in a car accident near Nairobi, Kenya in 1986 and Kieran O’Byrne died in 1995. The last of the 1949 class died on Saturday morning last with Jack’s passing.

Fr. Jack would be very strong on no Panegyric at this his Requiem. We know at times he could be abrupt and even very direct! I think today of how Bishop Paddy Lennon dealt with a similar instruction from Bishop Tom Keogh in a letter that was opened in Braganza after his death. It simply read: “No Panegyric”. Bishop Lennon began his funeral homily then: “(Bishop Keogh) placed a ban on formal praise, but there is no ban on memory and there is no disloyalty in thanking God for the memories” .

And so today we give thanks for the many memories we have of Fr. Jack. Many of those memories revisited in recent days with the passing of Teresa Horan, much loved by the priests who lived at the Presbytery in Carlow. As the stories were told of Teresa, Jack featured prominently in many of them. After a late night out, Jack might leave a note at the foot of the stairs leading to Teresa’s rooms: “Tess, on 8 in the morning, do your best!”. And Teresa never failed in her loyalty and duty to priest and church. Teresa kept all those little notes. When I might mention Teresa to Jack in more recent times, there would be a broad smile and he’d say “Ah Tess, she was great”. He never mentioned those notes!

For a priestly life that had entered its 73rd year, Fr. Jack only served in three parishes – Clane, Carlow and here in Paulstown. A cursory glance across the condolence section on gives a sense of the deep appreciation still felt for his impact in those appointments. His youth ministry in Carlow extended to building a Scouts Den with telegraph polls, following a Canadian design spec came in for special mention. A generation of altar boys remember with fondness his Masses in the Cathedral. Some were dispatched with messages depending on mood and music. His priesthood bridged the gap between the more stoic Tridentine Rite and the newer post Vatican II Rite. He celebrated the first Mass facing the congregation on an Austrian oak altar in February 1968 . His celebration of the sacraments, particularly the reverence he held for the Mass featured strongly. How he always emphasised family prayer and the importance of the home. His ministry over his years at Gowran Abbey as he took the hand of many on their journey to possessing eternal life.

He was the second longest resident at Gowran Abbey, moving there in February 2012. Everything Fr. Jack did was thoroughly researched. Even that move across diocesan boundaries to Gowran Abbey. He liked to see you visit, and while the visit was important, with Jack knowing when to go home was equally important! Around his room at the end of the corridor he had many memories of ministry and family. His parents photograph on the locker beside him and above it the papal blessing for his Platinum Jubilee organised by John McEvoy and a gift from Paul O’Boyle and Clane parish marking the same jubilee. Over his desk he had the image from a Christmas card I sent him maybe five years ago – the sculpture piece of the Holy Family with St. Joseph at his work bench by John Hogan in the Cathedral. Family was critical to Fr. Jack and that sentiment was repeated by several comments to me over recent days.

He had a great commitment to education and formation at all levels. His interest in the schools in Paulstown and Goresbridge is well noted by many comments. With Jack the work of home and school must complement one another for the children to benefit fully from their education. The four R’s were critical: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Religion. Priests ordained from St. Patrick’s College in Carlow well remember their days leading the Holy Week liturgies from the Cathedral during Fr. Jack’s time. And once they entered the Cathedral they knew who was in charge!

I want to return briefly to his request to replenish oil stocks over in Gowran. When I anointed him in March he was intrigued by the ritual I was using and wondered might Gowran Abbey get him a copy of same? He was a priest to his fingertips to the very end. The man who approaches Jesus in Matthew’s gospel text left him sad because “he was a man of great wealth” . An tAth. Seán has left all of us the poorer in his passing, but we don’t in any way begrudge his release from this life. The challenges to his hearing and sight were particularly hard on someone who loved reading and conversation. Also in his room he had the St. Brigid’s Cross, a photograph of Pope Francis from our Diocesan Reach Out in 2013 and that powerful Salvador Dali print. He no longer needs to look at images, he is looking at Him face to face as An tAth. Seán possesses eternal life.
“Bail’ Ó Dhia oraibh
Ó Shamhain go lá le Bríde
Ó lá le Bríde go Bealtaine
Ó Bealtaine go Lúnasa
Is ó Lunasa go Samhain” .
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a Anam dílis.

Words of Olivia O’Leary, niece of Fr Jack, spoken at the Requiem Mass

It seems extraordinary that Jack is gone because he was always there, always there for us and always at the time that mattered.  Baptisms, Marriages, funerals.  The youngest of a family ten,born in 1923, he was the one who buried the rest, or scattered their ashes.  It was a  big duty for the baby brother to perform but he did it with reverence and grace.

His mother, Johanna ,died when he was a youngster, something he said he never really got over.  His father, John O’Leary, a loving and simple old man was extraordinarily proud of this young son who had become a priest.  Jack said that when he first arrived back in the house in Main Street Graignamanagh after his ordination in 1949, his father would always stand up in his presence.  Jack said had great difficulty in persuading him to sit down in the presence of a consecrated priest. Jack got lots of love but never got that sort of deference from his sisters and brothers.  The youngest in a big family never does.

When he went to Maynooth, he chose Irish as well as the classics, Greek and Latin, for his degree.  While there was a great love of Irish music in the family, no one else had chose to study and speak Irish to the extent that Jack did.  When I asked him why, he said he loved it, but also that he wanted to do something different from the sisters and brothers.’That’s what baby brothers do’ he said. That love of Irish stayed with him from his involvement in Gael Linn and their singing competitions to visits with his brother Ned to Irish music sessions and Gaeltacht areas in Donegal and indeed he reverted to Irish in his last few days.

He was the uncle every child wants.  He was cool, a great man for sunglasses and Ambre Soleil suntan mousse(this is in the early 60s!) .  He’d come to the beach with us at Fethard on Sea.  He’d dive off the rocks with the rest of us and eat my mother’s great picnics and then he’d announce he was going off ‘to put the missus to bed.’

That meant’ leave him alone’ because  he was going to walk on the cliffs and read his office.

He drove, Anne O’Leary Craig from Derry remembers, much faster than any of our fathers or mothers, and he found wilder places to swim and dive. 

He loved swimming and was involved in raising money for Carlow’s open air swimming pool in the early 70s.  When the Minister for the Environment, Bobby Molloy, a champion swimmer, came to launch it, he and Jack dived in and swam an inaugural length of the pool. Jack, as I say, was real cool.

Peter O’Leary, Uncle Michael’s son, being the second  eldest of all us cousins, was 8 at the time of Jack’s ordination and recalls the spread in the Abbey Hall in Graignamanagh with bowls of yellow jelly with bananas around the bottom and red jelly with strawberries around the bottom.  He wondered if you had to be a priest to get treated like that! 

When he was getting married,Peter remembers as he placed the ring on Karina’s finger and handed her a silver dollar, Jack whispered to her : ‘Take it, love. It’s probably the last of it you’ll ever see from that fellow”. The ice was broken and the nervousness vanished.

When he was in Carlow, from 1955 to 1978, he was involved with the Film Society.  And his niece,Elizabeth Coyle,remembers how he turned up for her tenth birthday with a projector and screen and gave a private showing of ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ to herself and her friends.   

Her sister Catherine remembers how Jack said a mass for the family in the sunroom of their house, Mount Temple, as a thanksgiving for Catherine’s baby, Stephen, who had survived a very serious accident.  Catherine remembers the sun in that room and the family dog pulling at Jack’s vestments and the normality of it all.  It was what brought her back into the world after that terrible time, she said.   It sounds like a sort of grace.

He celebrated all his nieces and nephews.  In our family, he was the one who took you out to dinner to celebrate getting your exams. 

And then for those of us who were students in Dublin, there were the slap-up meals.  Jack would drive up from Carlow and my cousin, Siobhan Murphy Walshe, remembers when she was a student in Cathal Brugha Street being brought to the Savoy in O’Connell St. for a mixed grill.  The Savoy was one of the best places in Dublin for a meal whether you were going to the cinema or not and it had an orange juice fountain on the counter where the juice sluiced round and around until it made you dizzy.  Jack loved treating people

A last story,from a boating holiday with Jack and his brother Ned and my cousin Johnny and his wife.  We landed on Ithica, Odysseus’s island and up at the local café, Jack was introduced to the local Greek Orthodox priest.  Using his classical Greek, Jack managed to communicate with him.  They called one another ‘Papas’, which is Father in Greek, and we were all invited to a month’s mind mass next morning in the little white church on the hill. ( Mama Mia watchers, eat your heart out.) We were almost high on incense and Kyrie’s by the time we came out to join the procession around the graveyard and eat the almond cake which was traditionally given to each guest.  It was a wonderful experience and all because of Jack.

The Bishop has spoken about Jack’s life in the different parishes he belonged to and the work he did with the Working man’s Club in Carlow and the Scout’s Den he helped to build with railway sleepers.  We admired all the work but often wondered if he suffered the loneliness that must come with a celibate priest’s life.  I don’t know, but what was plain was how dear his parish in Paulstown was to him and how it became home from 1978. 

When he chose to go into a nursing home, the Gowran Abbey home was the one he chose because he would be near his beloved Paulstown,- and parishioners and parish friends could visit. In the nursing home, he had a role saying mass and distributing communion and giving blessings to residents of all faiths.  He’d always reassure them it was an ecumenical blessing.  He was a priest, a pastor to the end.

There are many people he relied on in the last few years: Mairead Byrne and the wonderful staff at the Abbey Home in Gowran who cared for him so well and ran a wonderful 70th celebration of his ordination a few years ago. Tina Tobin, the sacristan in Paulstown who visited him weekly when she could and brought him all the parish news.  We’d like to thank them and all the people who visited him faithfully- his friends, his parishioners, his nieces and nieces in law and nephews and nephews in law and second and third cousins.  Jack loved their visits.And if I’m allowed to mention two names, they would be my brother Art and sister-in-law Phyl O’Leary who were always the first people he called and the first people who came.

I’d like to thank singers Tony Murray and Conor Murphy for the music today with Art O’Leary on the organ.

Because of the dangers from Covid, we have decided not to have a gathering after the funeral.  Jack would have loved one but we feel it is the responsible thing to do.  We will organise a gathering sometime in the future.

To us he was our uncle, the last link with our parents’ generation.  As my cousin Maggie Murphy said  yesterday: Jack was the last stitch on the knitting needle keeping us all together.  Let’s hope we can now keep the garment from unravelling.

The ten O’Leary’s had a song they sang to the tune of ‘All Through the Night’ and it ends with a list of their names which I will now recite with love and with pride:

 ‘There was Betty and Molly and Ned and Mickey and Paddy and Nessie and Kitty and Peggy.  And last of all but by no means least came Colum… and Jack.’