Lives Remembered

Good counsel, joy and pleasure on three continents

Fr Roger McGorty on his ordination day in 1956

Fr Roger McGorty was a missionary priest on three continents, but it was for two decades spent in the heart of Belfast that he was best known to the people of Northern Ireland.

The parishioners of St Mary’s, Chapel Lane loved him and he is still fondly remembered there for his compassion, love and mercy.

As the Troubles raged on the streets outside, Fr Roger was also committed to the processes of peace and reconciliation.

His English-based Superiors noted at the time that his presence in St Mary’s, Belfast's oldest Catholic Church, was a sign to a suffering people that the Church remained one with them in love and service.

The son of a Fermanagh farmer, Roger Francis McGorty was born in December 1930 in Fassagh, Belleek.

He felt the call to missionary life at a young age and was just 14 when he joined the Mill Hill minor seminary at Freshford, Co Kilkenny.

After completing his secondary education he went to Holland for two years to study philosophy. He then spent four years studying theology in London and was ordained a Mill Hill missionary priest in 1956 in Westminster Cathedral.

Fr Roger’s first appointment abroad came in 1960, teaching for five years in Jesselton, Borneo.

When his visa ran out he returned to St Joseph's College, Freshford, where he taught for 15 years.

In 1979 he courageously agreed to work in Kenya, East Africa.

He spent nine years there, before accepting the very different challenge of being part of the Mill Hill team looking after St Mary's parish in Belfast city centre.

 

Over the next 20 years Fr Roger provided a loving service at the historic church, built in 1874 - with money from the Presbyterian community and Church of Ireland - as sacred space at the heart of the city, where people of all faiths and none are welcome to come in and be at peace with their God.

He celebrated his golden jubilee at St Mary’s in 2006.

Fr James Boyle, current administrator of St Mary's, said he was a treasured member of two families - his family in Fassagh, Beleek and his Mill Hill family.

"Anything Roger did, he did it well. He was a perfectionist," he said.

"He was also a very jovial person, good company with a great bit of wit about him. He brought good counsel, joy and pleasure to the lives of many over three continents.

"We can but thank God deeply for such an example of missionary service, with a variety of ministries. He was a wonderful priest. May he rest in peace."

Fr McGorty (84), who suffered a series of strokes over the last seven years, died on May 4 at the Graan Nursing Home, Enniskillen.

Lives Remembered