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Bishop Leahy pays tribute to Minister’s brother

By Sarah Mac Donald - 20 January, 2016

Fr Jim Noonan was an Irish missionary priest with the Kiltegan Fathers and served in Nigeria for 47 years.

Fr Jim Noonan

Fr Jim Noonan

The Bishop of Limerick has paid tribute to Fr Jim Noonan, the brother of the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, who died on Tuesday after a short illness.

Fr Noonan was an Irish missionary and served in Nigeria for 47 years. The Loughill, Co Limerick native had been unwell since last autumn.

He passed away at the Kiltegan Missionary Society Care Centre in Co Wicklow.

In a statement, Bishop Brendan Leahy described Fr Noonan as “a remarkable priest and human being” and said he had gone to his eternal reward.

Fr Noonan is survived by his brothers Michael, the Minister for Finance, Tom as well as sisters Madeline, Joan and Mary.

“He really was a remarkable man, a man who did quite remarkable work on the missions in Nigeria and in a very harsh environment there for all of 47 years,” Bishop Leahy said.

“We have heard many stories of his incredible spirit of giving and Christianity. He was a true missionary and many, many people have spoken about how heroic he was in his work in Nigeria. He lived and worked in very difficult circumstances – in terms of climate, geographical and social conditions but he never relented.”

Bishop Leahy said that the parish of Shanagolden-Foynes was delighted to welcome Fr Noonan home almost six years ago.

“Coming back from the missions after 47 years couldn’t have been easy for Fr Jim but he settled back in so well and made an instant connection with parishioners.”

He said the missionary priest was a quiet-spoken and gentle soul who had a deep interest in people and what was happening in their lives.

“He had a really strong and innate sense of pastoral care and made very strong connections with people. He will be very much remembered for that.”

Bishop Leahy had visited Fr Noonan just last week at the Kiltegan Missionary Society Care Centre and said at the time he was very much aware of his health situation but was still in good spirits. “Indeed I found his whole approach very inspiring,” the Bishop of Limerick said.

“As well as his having his breviary beside him, he was watching a rugby match, reading the Limerick Leader and was well up to date on things in the diocese. He spoke with gratitude of his good experience in recent years in Foynes/Shanagolden. He really will be deeply missed and our heartfelt sympathies to this family and friends.”

Fr Noonan’s Funeral Mass will take place in Kiltegan on Thursday at 12 midday, with burial afterwards in the local parish cemetery.

His removal takes place today at 5:30pm.

Mourners in Limerick will be able to pay their respects later at his Month’s Mind Mass which will be held in Foynes Church on a date to be selected.

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