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American friends recall Tom O’Gorman at Washington memorial mass

By Susan Gately - 29 January, 2014

St Peter's Church, Capitol Hill, Washington

St Peter’s Church, Capitol Hill, Washington

These words from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans brought comfort to the friends of Tom O’Gorman who gathered at St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to offer Mass for the repose of Tom’s soul.  The Mass on 25th January 2014 was celebrated by Rev. William Byrne and brought together over 40 friends from Washington, Virginia, Maryland and Florida. 

“Anyone who knew Tom knew of his love of connecting people.  His memorial in Washington was a testament to that,” said Molly Pannell, a stay-at-home mother who formerly served as a staff member at Feminists for Life of America and the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment.

 Friends in politics, law, education, technology, the arts and stay-at-home parents came together to celebrate Tom’s life, to pray for him and his family, and to share their joy in having known him.  Those in Washington were joined in prayer by more of Tom’s American friends in New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

 “Tom had a gift for forging lasting friendships.  Those in attendance included friends like myself who have known Tom since his days at UCD and others who had met Tom on his most recent trip to Washington in August 2013.  All of us touched by and made better people by Tom’s friendship and love.  As Fr. Byrne said in the homily, ‘To know Tom was to love Tom, or more accurately, to have been loved by Tom’,” Ms Pannell told CatholicIreland.

 Among those gathered at the memorial Mass were nearly a dozen children, from babies on their mother’s laps to pre-teens assisting with Mass.  Those present could not help but envision Tom’s smile when the babies added their loud, happy voices to the Mass and the toddlers joyfully ran up and down the church aisles. 

In his homily, Fr. Byrne reminded those gathered that “The world was blessed to have known Tom, and it is better to have had him for a short time than never to have had him at all.  It is such love and joy, truth and passion of such friendships that are the foretaste of heaven where our friendship with God fills us completely.”

Tom 3

Tom O’Gorman with Tadgh O’Broin

 The intercessions, read by Brett Swearingen of Washington, included prayers for peace for Tom’s soul as well as comfort for his family and friends both in the US and in Ireland.

Following Mass, friends gathered at a nearby restaurant where they spent hours together recalling their friend Tom.  “Some tears were shed but our laughter filled the restaurant as we shared some of our favorite memories of Tom and the gift of his friendship,” said Molly Pannell.   

 She went on: “My five year-old daughter Catherine said it best, ‘My soul is crying because Tom died.’  Our souls are crying and we are heartbroken over the loss of our dear friend.  But we cling to our hope in the Resurrection and the comfort of the Good Shepherd.  Like Tom, we are a people of hope.  Hope does not disappoint.”  

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