Sunday 22 September 2019

'Few had such a lasting impact on a community as Fr Forde'

By Esther Hayden

Tributes have flooded in following the death of popular parish priest Fr Walter Forde.

Gorey Meals on Wheels, of which Fr Forde was a founding member, extended sympathy to his family and friends and said he will be sadly missed in the community.

'During his time in Gorey he made such an amazing contribution to the town's community, responding to its social needs and developing support services for its youth, elderly and socially excluded. Many of the organisations he established and developed continue to operate today so his impact on our community lives on. Gorey has lost a true friend.'

Castlebridge Gospel Choir said he was a warm hearted man who showed great kindness.

'As a group, we are heartbroken. Fr. Forde was a great support to the choir from the very beginning, always so welcoming to us and would take the time to personally thank us each time we performed in Castlebridge for the many masses or events throughout the years. He meant a lot to us and will be sadly missed. We will remember him as a kind and warmhearted friend to us all. May he rest in peace.'

A native of Bunclody Fr Forde was ordained in Maynooth in June 1968.

Chairman of Wexford County Council, Cllr. Malcolm Byrne said the late Fr Forde was a gentleman.

'It is with deep sadness that I have heard of the death of Fr. Walter Forde. Fr. Walter was a gentleman to his fingertips and committed to community development as well as ways of bringing people in conflict together.

'He was committed to ecumenism and to dialogue to achieve understanding. He always encouraged young people and saw the good and potential in everyone. There are so many organisations at a local and national level that benefited from his talents and dedication.

'I knew him for as long as I can remember. I served and read at Mass while he was a priest in Gorey and worked with him in several voluntary committees. He would tease me about my political interests but was always encouraging and happy to debate.

'From the Community Development Association to St. Aidan's to the Summer Fair to the Byrne Perry Summer School to so many other groups, there are few individuals who have had such a lasting impact on a community as Fr. Walter Forde had on Gorey and on North Wexford.

'He also played his part in the development of various national young people's organisations and activities and in supporting dialogue among the Churches and other groups in the North. He was a giant of a man with an enormous heart.

'Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.'

Methodist minister Steven Foster said Fr Forde was very welcoming and inclusive.

'I was sorry to learn of the sudden death of Fr Walter Forde. The congregation of Gorey Methodist Church was saddened by the loss of a friend of the church. He reached well beyond the walls of the Catholic church with a sincere and generous embrace to, and engagement with, Methodists and others.

'I appreciated his warmth, wisdom, genuine interest and concern. He was deeply appreciated across the whole community for his commitment to wider society and the good of all.

'One aspect of his ecumenical commitment was that he invited Mr Cecil Riddall, Methodist Lay Preacher and host of 'Sounds for Sunday' on South East Radio to speak at Mass in Castlebridge each year.'

A former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Roy Cooper described him as 'far-sighted'. 'I was very fond of Walter, who was a great encourager to me when I served in Gorey'.

Colm J Redmond, of the Zetland Country House Hotel in Connemara, is a native of Gorey and worked closely with Fr Forde on the editorial board of The Links magazine which kept emigrants up to date with the happenings of Gorey.

'He was a great man. He gave great service to the people of Gory and beyond and was highly respected and cherished by the sons and daughters of Gorey who emigrated as well as those who stayed at home.

'He was hugely committed to his work and was very, very highly thought of. In my personal opinion of all the clergy who ever came to the town of Gorey he was the man who gave the most service to one and all on all sides of the community.

'His openness and his approach to the early development of the town was a very significant factor in the overall social development of North Wexford. I have very warm and cherished memories of a man who gave of his time most generously. He was a very ecumenical minded man.'

Kieran Donohoe, Chief Executive of FDYS, of which Fr Forde was a former chairman said Fr Forde was a man of vision.

'Fr Walter contributed so much to the development of Youthwork, locally, nationally and internationally. He was a former Chairman of FDYS, where he supported new initiatives and services for young people throughout County Wexford. He was a founding member of the Executive Committee of European Confederation of Youth Clubs, a leading European Group that was committed to the development of voluntary lead youth groups. He was also a trustee of the Irish Youth Foundation and an Honorary member of the National Federation of Youth Clubs.

'FDYS is immensely grateful for the work Fr Walter has done. He showed great vision and direction in the area of Youthwork, through which young people continue to benefit.'

Wexford People

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