Northern Ireland news

'Inspirational' priest Fr Brendan McGee (95) offers final Mass for St Patrick's parishioners before retiring

Fr Brendan McGee (95) with St Patrick's administrator Fr Eugene O'Neill
Marie Louise McConville

IT was the end of an era at a Belfast city centre church yesterday when an "inspirational" priest offered his final Mass in the parish at the age of 95.

Fr Brendan McGee, who has been an assistant curate at the historic St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street since 2000, retired yesterday after almost 70 years' service.

The Dean of St Peter's Cathedral was ordained in 1950 and previously served as parish priest in Portaferry, Twinbrook and Greencastle.

Fr Eugene O'Neill, administrator of St Patrick's, described him as an "inspirational figure to all of us in the parish but also in the house among priests".

"He was a fountain of wisdom," he said.

"You could throw anything at him and he would give you a really shrewd reading of everything. He has a photographic memory. You could ask him any question about his total life experience and he would be able to answer, for example, the Blitz of Belfast."

Fr McGee remained active in the parish right until this week.

"Yesterday (Thursday) he gave me his keys. `Right, that's as much as I can do now'," Fr O'Neill said.

"He said Mass every day in a little chapel in the house with the chalice which his parents gave him on his ordination day."

Fr O'Neill also told how Fr McGee had been good friends with west Belfast priest Fr Des Wilson, who died earlier this month, and would now be moving into the room he vacated at Nazareth Care Village.

"I just rejoice that there are places such as Nazareth Care Village where his medical needs and nursing needs can be monitored. He can walk down the corridor to the chapel there," he said.

"We are sad but we are also grateful for the experience and we wish him many, many happy years of retirement."

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