Northern Ireland news

Funeral of drowning victim Fr Stephen Rooney to take place in US this week

Fr Stephen Rooney (right) and Robert Chiles drowned in a boating tragedy in the Detroit River.
Seamus McKinney

THE funeral of Belfast-born priest Fr Stephen Rooney, who drowned in a boating tragedy in the US, will take place in Michigan on Wednesday.

The 66-year-old Short Strand native died when the boat he was a passenger on capsized after hitting a rock on the Detroit River a week ago.

A friend and parishioner, Robert Giles (52), also lost his life in the tragedy.

Twelve other people who were on the boat, including some children, were rescued.

Fr Rooney's funeral Mass will take place at St Frances Cabrini Church, Allen Park, Michigan at 9.30pm (Irish time) on Wednesday.

His brother, Pilip Ó Ruanaidh, said it will be livestreamed through the Bacarella Funeral Home website (on Fr Rooney's obituary section), with the stream starting 15 minutes before the Mass.

“There will also be a spot for online condolences in the same section,” Mr Ó Ruanaidh said.

Originally from Anderson Street in Belfast, Fr Rooney served as a brother in Ireland, first with the Redemptorist Order and then with the Cistercians.

Following his ordination in 1985, he spent more than 30 years as a priest in various parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Despite living in the US, he maintained strong links with his home city and returned often.

On a number of occasions during the Troubles, he said Mass in the H Blocks and in Portlaoise Prison where some of his brothers were republican prisoners.

An extensive search was launched following last Sunday's tragedy and Fr Rooney's body was recovered on Thursday.

Since the tragedy, vigils in memory of Fr Rooney have been held in Belfast, in Washington State and California in the US and in Vietnam.

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