independent

Tuesday 24 October 2017

FR JIM FEGAN'S SILVER JUBILEE

PARISH ADMINISTRATOR IS 25 YEARS A PRIEST

ANNE MARIE O'CONNOR

HE REMEMBERS Sky Television door-stepping him outside Mass, and Morning Ireland conducting interviews under the spire of Bride Street Church.

As a priest in Wexford for 25 years, life has often been colourful for parish administrator Fr. Jim Fegan.

A popular Padre, Fr. Jim has seen the role of local priest go through huge metamorphosis in his 23 year tenure in Wexford town.

He arrived as a young curate - a 'Fr. Trendy' of sorts - when Fr. Hugh Byrne and Fr. Paddy Cushen were running the respective shows in the Twin churches.

However, the comfortable routine of parish life was soon to be turned on its head through bitter tales of abuse.

Fr. Jim witnessed the devastation , hurt and subsequent healing that spilled from the aftermath of the Ferns Report.

He's now cruising comfortably through middle age - still Parish Priest in everything bar name of Wexford town. He shares the Presbytery with half the personnel it once gave a roof to and he's seen vocations decline, congregations dwindle.

And still his silver jubilee celebrations last weekend saw him renewed by heartfelt encouragement.

Last weekend Wexford parish showed genuine caring for a man who has given quarter of a century, most of it in their midst, and all of it as a determined and committed member of the Ferns Diocesan clergy.

Fr. Jim Fegan was ordained out of St. Peter's College in 1986, and was initially appointed as parish chaplain in Our Lady Queen of Peace in Merrion, Dublin. It was a time when secondment of a priest wasn't such a big deal as healthy vocations were evident in Wexford.

While in Dublin Fr. Jim continued his studies and spent a year in Careysfort studying religious formation before being brought back to St. Peter's to act as Dean of Discipline in the boarding school for a year.

He was appointed to Wexford town, on the departure of the late Fr. Jackie McCabe in 1988, but did a short stint in Ramsgrange before taking up duties.

It was a Friday the 13th and it ' bucketed down rain' on his first day as a School Street curate.

For six and a half years he was a curate before being approached to become RCA - the administrators job for Rowe Street. Three years later, and only 35 at the time, he was made Administrator - the youngest ADM ever appointed. Fourteen years on, he's now the longest serving.

Being ADM is like being Parish Priest, without the title. Being a Mensal Parish, the Bishop takes his salary from the Parish of Wexford and is therefore officially it's PP.

When appointed ADM the Presbytery had a young, dynamic clergy. It was Bishop Comiskey's ethos at the time to put young priests in urban parishes where they would appeal to a younger generation.

The parish of Wexford has remained quite vibrant and dynamic under Fr. Jim's watch.

On Friday night Bishop Denis Brennan congratulated Fr. Jim on his 25 year milestone by celebrating 6 p.m. evening Mass in Rowe Street. The singing was glorious with Rowe Street senior and junior choirs performing, and a letter from Mayor Joe Ryan was read by his deputy Cllr. George Lawlor.

Fr. Jim's involvement on the Wexford General Hospital Alliance committee and his work in raising cash for charity through the annual 4 day Christmas Mass brought appreciative applause.

At 12 Mass in Bride Street on Sunday Fr. Jim got to thank his congregations as Bride Street Choir and the folk group raised their voices.

On Saturday night White's Hotel played host to a parish party held in honour of Fr. Jim.

The venue was thronged, with priests, friends, parishioners all there to give congratulations.

A presentation was made by parish. Appropriately it was a beautiful oil painting of Rowe Street Church - completed by Fr. Jim's friend and priestly colleague Fr. John O'Brien.

'It was a lovely weekend. I was so delighted that so many people came out, and I still can't believe I received so many cards and presents. I cannot believe the generosity of people. I'm completely overwhelmed,' he said.

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