SAD PASSING OF FR. AIDAN KAVANAGH
FR AIDAN WAS BREE PARISH PRIEST FOR 30 YEARS
THE PARISH of Bree and the wider Diocese of Ferns community was in mourning last week following the sudden death on Wednesday of the long-serving Fr. Aidan Kavanagh PP.
Just a week after welcoming President McAleese to his parish for the opening of the new preschool there, Father Kavanagh passed away early that morning. The man who for many years was the oil which lubricated all that was good in Bree was called to his Maker.
The man known as 'The High Priest' because of his impressively tall physique – he stood six feet four inches tall – was nevertheless a gentle giant, and a reasurring presence always for his parishioners. At Saturday's funeral Mass, Bishop Denis Brennan described his departed 78 year old colleague as 'a man with no guile, a man of obvious sincerity and goodwill'. That is how he will be remembered.
Aidan Kavanagh was born at Kiltilly in rural Kilrush in the north of Co. Wexford in 1933. He was ordained 24 years later and assigned to Terrerath at the other end of the diocese of Ferns, where he served until 1971. Stints at Coolfancy (19711975), Carnew (1975-1977) and Wexford (Bride Street 1977-1979 and Rowe Street 1979-1981) followed. He is still remembered by many who were schoolboys during the late Seventies in Wexford town as the genial dispenser of religious education in his role as chaplain of the Christian Brothers School.
It was in 1981 that he arrived in Bree where he was fated to spend the next 30 years. He continued his priestly ministry there far beyond the regulation retirement age, not only attending to the obvious clerical duties but also to others such as cutting the grass and other general maintenance tasks. He supported every progressive organisation in the parish during the three decades he spent in the rural parish. He was president of the Ballyhogue GAA Club and the athletics club and the Pioneer Council, to name but three.
However, away from his parochial duties, he was most closely associated with Bree Hall, more recently re-styled Bree Community Centre. It is no coincidence that one of the most sophisticated community centres in the country took shape with his involvement.
Not only did he welcome and encourage the commitment of others to the cause but he also rolled up his own sleeves and took a first-hand interest in anything that was going on in the complex. On his watch, the place was refined, improved and extended. The Brí Beag preschool admired by President McAleese was part of the community centre development.
It was in Bree that Fr Aidan celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination in the year 2007. However, even as he stood tall over the occasion, he selflessly insisted that the celebration should be an occasion to praise God and give thanks for the benefits of the priesthood, not to heap praise on his shoulders.
The departed parish priest's diligence as a priest was second to none, described in these terms by Bishop Denis Brennan in his homily at Saturday's funeral: 'Fr Aidan brought a warmth and a wisdom forged on his own spiritual journey, a caring presence garnered from his own experience of life and priesthood over the years.'
He is survived by his sisters Mai and Peg, by his brother Pat, many nephews and nieces, inlaws, parishioners, clergy and friends. May he rest in peace.