Lives Remembered

Fr Jerry Fitzpatrick: Prior of Termonbacca retreat centre 'loved Derry and its people'

Fr Jerry was Prior at the Carmelite Retreat Centre at Termonbacca on the outskirts of Derry
Seamus McKinney

FR Jeremiah Fitzpatrick loved Derry and those who got to know him came to love him.

Prior at the Carmelite Retreat Centre at Termonbacca, Fr Jerry passed away on May 19 at the age of 78.

While he underwent heart surgery some months before, his death was still a shock to his friends all over Ireland.

A native of Kanturk in Co Cork, Fr Jerry was the eldest of seven children.

After schooling in his home town and Castlemartyr, he entered training for the priesthood with the Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCD) - 'discalced' meaning 'without shoes' - in Loughrea and was ordained in 1966.

Fr Jerry’s leadership skills saw him serve in roles in Dublin and Derry and he was elected Provincial in 1993.

His vocation also took him to Rome where he spent six years as a member of his order’s general council.

At one of two Requiem Masses, at St Teresa’s Church on Clarendon Street in Dublin, Fr Vincent O’Hara OCD recalled Fr Jerry’s time in Italy.

“Jerry was nothing if not versatile, having been Dean, Prior, Parish Priest and Provincial. But at the same time he can’t have found it easy to be hived off to Rome as a member of the general council back in 1997 with no word of Italian, an innate resistance to technology and emails. But he tumbled to it and bloomed in the role.

“I remember asking him a few months into his new job what his Italian was like and, with his usual wit, he answered ‘Very good, but I have very little of it’.

“Among his roles as General Definitor was responsibility for the Carmelite missions and he particularly looked forward to his visits to Nigeria, for it was on his watch as Provincial that our Province (administrative region) took on care of the that mission,” Fr O’Hara said.

A gifted communicator, Fr Jerry was an inspirational leader of retreats. His personal reflection and prayer brought the Word of God alive through his preaching.

And while truly a man of the world, having travelled extensively, he came to look on Derry as home.

The Carmelite Retreat Centre at Termonbacca. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

At Requiem Mass at St Columba’s Church, Long Tower, Fr John Grennan said he "loved Derry and the people of Derry".

“That was something he was well aware of, but I think that the depth of that love was a revelation to himself in the aftermath of his serious heart surgery over three months ago," he said.

“He appreciated the care of the nursing home and the company of the brethren down south but he said, ‘Derry is home for me; it is where I want to be’."

Fr Jerry is survived by his sister Peg and brothers Tony, Denis, Aidan and Cole.

He was predeceased by his brother John and was laid to rest at Glasnevin cemetery on May 24.

Seamus McKinney

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Lives Remembered