FOND tributes have been paid on the passing, at the age of 92, of Fr Brendan Lawlor, Assistant Priest of Tulla.
At his funeral mass Bishop Fintan Monahan gave thanks for Fr Brendan’s long, happy and fruitful life and his “remarkable breath of pastoral experience”. The bishop paid tribute to Fr Brendan’s decades-long ministry.
This was mainly in the priesthood, but Fr Brendan also ministered as a lay person and counsellor after being dispensed from his vows in his mid 40s to marry. After the untimely passing of his wife, Paula Jean Anthony, he returned to the priesthood and spend the last 22 years of his life in Tulla.
Michael Patrick Brendan Lawlor was born in O’Brien’s Bridge on March 4, 1930. He began studies for the priesthood in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth in 1948. He was ordained to the priesthood on the June 19, 1955 for the diocese of St. Augustine Florida.
His first appointment was to St. Rose of Lima Parish in Miami Shores in 1955. From 1955 to 1959, he served in St. Paul parish in St. Petersburg. In 1960 he was appointed to Bishop Barry High School, where he served as Vice-President and later as President of the school.
In 1964, he was appointed to Corpus Christi Parish in Temple Terrace, Florida. In 1966 he was appointed to Holy Family Parish in St. Petersburg. In 1970 he went to St Josephs parish in Zephyrhills Florida. From he to 1973, he worked in St Joseph’s Parish in Bradenton Hills, Florida.
After this appointment he was dispensed from his clerical vows and later married Paula Jean on November 1,1975. After her untimely death in 1986, he returned to priestly ministry in 1988 serving in St Paul Parish, Tampa, Florida.
In 1992, he moved to Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Gulfport. In 1996, he returned to Corpus Christi Parish in Temple Terrace, Florida. Upon his retirement from the diocese of St Petersburg in the year 2000, Fr Brendan returned home to Ireland and served in the parish of Tulla.
Fr Brendan’s sister Breda, who is based in Mayo and his brother Seán, who lives in Cork, were among the mourners at his funeral at the Church of St Peter and Paul on Friday last. Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Monahan, Parish Priest of Tulla, Fr Brendan Quinlivan, Bishop Emeritus of Killaloe, Fr Willie Walsh and fellow priests of the Diocese.
Bishop Monahan paid tribute to Fr Brendan’s “talent, interest and skill in listening intently to people in the human situations people found themselves”.
“When I heard the sad news of the passing of Fr Brendan during the week, I was wondering if he had left instructions that I should be barred from the funeral,” Bishop Monahan told mourners.
“He regarded me with the height of suspicion. He always felt I was trying to do something unspeakable to curb his freedom. Thinks like taking away the keys of his car, discouraging him from climbing the steps here in the Church, enquiring about home help or God forbid Nursing Home care.
“I remember visiting him a few years ago during a brief stint in the nursing home in Ballindereen in south Galway. He had his bags packed and was coming home to Tulla because the place was full of old people and he felt out of place. He announced that we could stay, but he was going home.
“He had a never-die, indomitable spirit and this was peppered with great humour, impish boyishness, but also a roguish defiance that ensured he always won the day.”
Bishop Monahan recalled that recent years had not been easy for Fr Brendan in terms of his health. “He struggled valiantly to keep a brave face on things, but that he certainly did,” Bishop Monahan said. He spoke fondly of Fr Brendan’s “diligence, persistence, faithfulness and devotion”.
Another anecdote was recounted about Fr Brendan’s feelings about his adopted East Clare home. When he was asked by the previous bishop, Willie Walshe, where he would like to minister, he said: “anywhere in Clare, except in Tulla”.
“I’m not sure what subsequently happened in the negotiations,” Bishop Monahan said, “but whatever transpired the good news was that a most fruitful synergy was formed. Here we had a retired pastor, with so much to offer and what a receptive flock he encountered in the people of Tulla. As you know so well he really put down roots here and was so deeply loved and respected and vice versa.”
Bishop Monahan also recalled Fr Brendan’s “greatly ally and friend of many years”, the late Sr Bosco Griffin.
“What a formidable duo they were together,” Bishop Monahan said. “God alone knows the amount of good work they both did with the youth of the parish here in Tulla and in their pastoral and prayerful outreach.
“On many occasions I had the experience of coming as a guest to the annual Matt Talbot Novena during Lent. On those occasions it didn’t matter who the pastor was, Martin O’Brien or Brendan Quinlivan, it was quite clear who was in charge – Sr Bosco and Fr Brendan senior. St Peter can’t say he hasn’t been warned!”
After Requiem Mass, Fr Brendan was laid to rest on the chapel grounds in Tulla.
Fr Brendan was predeceased by wife Paula Jean; his sister Betty and his brothers Jerry and Paschal. He is survived by his sister Breda Duffy (Ballina, County Mayo) his brother Seán Lawlor (Carrigaline, County Cork), his sisters-in-law Peggy Lawlor, Noreen Lawlor and Myreta Lawlor; his nieces, nephews, relatives, neighbours and friends; bishops and priests of the Dioceses of St Petersburg (Florida) and Killaloe.