We announce the sad news of the death of Fr Timothy John O'Connor on Sunday 22nd October 2023. Fr Tim died while attending to his garden in Abbeyville, Croom in Co Limerick where he had been living since his retirement as Parish Priest of Potters Bar in 2017. He celebrated the Saturday evening Mass in Croom the day before he died.
Born in Limerick in July 1949, Fr Tim was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Westminster in Thurles, Co Tipperary in June 1973.
Condolences are extended to Fr Tim’s family and friends, and to the parishioners of his former parishes in the Diocese and to parishioners in Croom.
Fr Tim's body will repose on Tuesday 24th October in St Michael's Church, Manister, from 5pm with Evening Prayers at 7pm. The funeral Mass will take place on Wednesday 25th October at 12noon, with burial immediately afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.
Fr Tim prayed this Prayer after Communion at Mass on Saturday evening:
Grant, O Lord, we pray,
that, benefitting from participation in heavenly things,
we may be helped by what you give in this present age
and prepared for the gifts that are eternal.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen
At the Funeral Mass for Fr Tim O’Connor, at St Michael’s church, Manister in Co Limerick on Wednesday 25 October, three days after his death on Sunday 22 October 2023, the Celebrant and Preacher at the Mass commented that Fr Tim died on Mission Sunday, in his garden and with his boots on. In his homily Fr Tom O’Connor, a second cousin of Fr Tim and a member of St Patrick’s Missionary Society – the Kiltegan Fathers – spoke of the sadness and shock he and others felt on hearing the news of the sudden death of Fr Tim. Fr Tim was a true missionary who had left his home and country to serve the Church overseas at the tender age of 24 when he came to the Diocese of Westminster as a newly-ordained priest. He served the mission of the Church in Westminster for 44 years until ill health brought him home to Abbeyville, Manister in 2017. Pope Francis’ theme for Mission Sunday 2023 was ‘Hearts on Fire, Feet on the Move’. “That certainly described Tim”, said Fr Tom. “He was always willing to serve wherever the need was greatest. Even after returning to Manister he continued to be a man with a mission, his heart was on fire and his feet were always ready to move.”
Timothy John O’Connor was one of nine children born to Patrick and Mary O’Connor. Two of his sisters, Mai and Delia, had become nuns by the time Tim entered the seminary in Thurles to begin formation for priesthood. Born in Glin, Co Limerick on 6 July 1949 Tim was baptised three days later at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Glin and he was confirmed in the same church in May 1961. He was educated at Glin National School from 1954-61 before going to Croom National School then on to the Christian Brothers School in Rath Luirc in north Co Cork from 1962-67. In the autumn of 1967 began priestly formation at St Patrick’s College, Thurles. In January 1968 Tim’s father died. Several years later, when Fr Tim wrote a refection having been a priest for 36 years, he said “On the night of my ordination my mother said that she never prayed that I would be a priest, she just prayed that I would choose what God wanted for me. Of course, she was delighted that I became as priest. I am delighted that I continue to be a priest in this great Archdiocese.” Tim applied to, and was accepted for, the Archdiocese of Westminster as seminarian during his formation in Thurles. He was a good student, described by the college President as “cheerful and cooperative”. he did well academically and in other aspects of seminary life and he was popular among the other seminarians and the college staff. Pastoral placements during his years of formation included stints in the parishes of Chiswick and Kingsbury Green.
On 9 June 1973 Fr Tim O’Connor was ordained in the college chapel at Thurles by Archbishop Thomas Morris of Cashel and Emly. His first appointment was Assistant Priest at Kentish Town where he served from 1973-79. He then returned to Ireland for further studies in Dundalk, Co Louth. Fr Tim spent a year at the Institute of Religious Education at Mount Oliver in Dundalk as preparation for service with the Westminster Religious Education Centre, WREC, based in Kensington Square and advising schools on the delivery of religious education. On his return to the Diocese Fr Tim went to live in the presbytery at Swiss Cottage while working with WREC as a religious education adviser from 1980-83. Fr Tim’s next appointment was to the Catholic Missionary Society based in Golders Green. The CMS was founded by Cardinal Vaughan, who had also established the St Joseph’s Missionary Society (‘Mill Hill Missionaries’) for the overseas mission, for missionary work in England and Wales mainly through parish missions. Fr Tim was a member of the CMS team for five years, from 1983-88. His next appointment was Parish Priest at Sudbury where he served from 1988-99. The parish was in need of a new beginning and the implementation of the renewal called for since the Second Vatican Council. Fr Tim was well suited to this challenge. His desire to work closely with clergy and committed lay people, his attitude of openness and inclusion, his warm personality and calm temperament and his zeal for education and formation helped to make Sudbury a model parish. Popular among the other local priests, Fr Tim was appointed Dean of Brent. In 1996 he went to Dalgan Park, home of the Columban Missionaries, near Navan in Ireland for three months sabbatical. His next appointment was to the diocesan seminary, Allen Hall in Chelsea, as resident Pastoral Director in 1999. He remained for a year before being appointed Parish Priest at Kenton, from 2000-02. Potters Bar was Fr Tim’s next parish, serving as Parish Priest from 2002 until his retirement in 2017. At Potters Bar, with two churches, Fr Tim oversaw the building of the new church, a challenging but necessary project, bringing the two parishes together. He was appointed Dean of Hatfield in 2003.
Fr Tim was blessed with a very positive attitude to life and a winning way with people young and old, rich and poor, people of all nationalities and heritages. He was a trusted confidant to many, including priests. He had an enviable gift for getting people together for the greater good of all, as demonstrated in his ministry in parishes where a united effort was needed. He attended to his own growth in pastoral and educational skills through reading and participating on courses. The golf course was also a priority for Fr Tim! He was a regular sight on the golf course on most Thursdays throughout his priestly ministry. He also enjoyed looking after the gardens of the various presbyteries where he lived over the years, and he grew vegetables and kept bees. He used the products of his hobbies in cooking and serving excellent meals for family and friends. He had his feet on the ground and in the ground! He had a pastoral heart and a spiritual life that was evident. A favourite passage of scripture for Fr Tim was Micah 6:8 saying what the Lord asks of us, “act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God”. Totally committed to priestly life and ministry, he continued to celebrate Mass regularly when he returned to Ireland following his retirement, an early retirement necessitated by health issues. Priests and parishioners of the parishes of Castletown, Ballyagran, Colmanswell, Rockhill and Bruree in the Diocese of Limerick will miss him, as will his family and friends on both sides of the Irish Sea.
On Saturday evening, 21 October Fr Tim celebrated the 6pm Vigil Mass in Rockhill. He nourished the parishioners with God’s Word of Life and with the Bread of Life, and he affirmed them as they left the church with smiles and words of greeting. The following day he was again close to the Lord while tending his garden, God’s creation and gift requiring human partnership to make it grow and flourish. Just like the Church.
May the kind, generous and noble soul of Fr Tim rest in peace.
We pray for the peaceful repose of Fr Tim’s soul:
Hear with favour our prayers,
which we humbly offer, O Lord,
for the salvation of the soul of Fr Tim your servant and priest,
that he, who devoted a faithful ministry to your name,
may rejoice in the perpetual company of your saints.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.
May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.