Northern Ireland news

Family of Fr Stephen Rooney gather in Belfast to watch US funeral on webcam

Fr Stephen Rooney's sister Marie (right) and niece Niamh light candles at Mass in St Matthew's Church in east Belfast last night. Picture by Hugh Russell
Seamus McKinney

THE family of Fr Stephen Rooney, who died in a boating accident in the United States, came together in Belfast last night to watch a livestream of his funeral as it took place in Michigan.

The 66-year-old priest, who was originally from the Short Strand area, drowned along with friend and parishioner Robert Giles (52) when the boat they were in capsized. Twelve other people, including a number of children, survived the tragedy which occurred on the Detroit River on Sunday August 16.

Originally from Anderson Street, after serving for a number of years as a brother with the Redemptorist and later Cistercian Orders, Fr Rooney was ordained a priest in 1985 for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

He subsequently spent the next 35 years serving in a number of parishes in the archdiocese.

The funeral of Fr Stephen Rooney, who was originally from Short Strand, took place yesterday in Michigan, USA.

Fr Rooney retained close links with his home city of Belfast and, in particular, the parish of his youth, St Matthew's.

He returned frequently and on a number of occasions during the Troubles, celebrated Mass in the H Blocks and Portlaoise Prison where some of his brothers were republican prisoners.

Read More: Missing Belfast priest Fr Stephen Rooney was 'glue which held his family together'

Fr Rooney’s Requiem Mass took place at St Frances Cabrini Church, Allen Park, Michigan yesterday at 4.30pm, which is 9.30GMT.

Fr Rooney’s brother, Pilib Ó Ruanaidh said three immediate family members were able to travel to Michigan for the Funeral Mass. However, other family members who were unable to travel gathered together to watch a live webcast of the service after evening Mass at St Matthew's.

Mr Ó Ruanaidh said family members observed strict Covid-19 social distancing and other guidelines at last night's service and told of their relief that they were able to share in the funeral Mass despite being unable to travel.

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