Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fr. Muredach Tuffy: R.I.P. - Pressures of Being a Priest in Ireland

The town of Ballina has been rocked by the sudden death of a local priest in what is believed to be the first case in recent years of a Catholic cleric in Ireland taking his own life.

Residents in the Co Mayo town yesterday expressed shock at news of the death of Fr Muredach Tuffy, a popular curate and director of the Newman Institute — an educational centre known as Ballina’s "Catholic university".

The body of the 39-year-old was discovered early yesterday in his apartment, attached to the institute at Cathedral Close.

Local sources said no foul play was involved.

Fellow priests in Ballina and the Diocese of Killala were too upset to comment when contacted yesterday.

Fr Gerard O’Hora, the parish priest of Ballina and spokesman for the Bishop of Killala, Dr John Fleming, was also unavailable.

A native of Castleconnor, Co Sligo, where he was ordained in 1999, Fr Tuffy had worked as director of the Newman Institute since 2003 and has been instrumental in its development and growth into a centre for adult religious education.

He was also the diocesan director of pastoral renewal and diocesan vocations director, as well as lecturing in applied theology at the Newman Institute. He also acted as Bishop Fleming’s spokesman.

Fr Tuffy officiated at the wedding of a friend in his home town of Castleconnor last Saturday. Local Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary, who attended school with Fr Tuffy at St Muredach’s College in Ballina, said Ballina was "shocked beyond belief".

Enniskillen-based priest and well-known broadcaster Fr Brian D’Arcy spoke earlier this week about the pressures of being a priest in Ireland amid the fallout of various clerical sexual abuse scandals, as well as grappling with controversial Church teaching on issues such as clerical celibacy, contraception, and homosexuality.

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... Speaking at the 39-year-old's funeral near Ballina in Co Mayo, Dr John Fleming said it was a mystery that he did not share the anxiety that filled his mind with someone.

He said the mourners gathered at Saint Joseph's Church in Castleconnor today - the Feast of All Souls - were stunned by Fr Tuffy's death and devastated in their grief.

Dr Fleming said the manner of his passing should not be allowed to darken his outstanding service in the diocese over 13 years.

He said for the past decade, Fr Tuffy had given every ounce of his considerable energy to the Newman Institute in Ballina, which he had broadened from a Catholic University serving Mayo into a centre of adult faith formation for the entire west of Ireland.

The Bishop said "availability" was Fr Tuffy's second name and that, if he had a fault, it was his inability to say "no" to the many people - including himself, his Bishop - who had approached him with requests and good ideas.

Dr Fleming expressed regret at having made such approaches.

He said Fr Tuffy was a comforter among mourners, who themselves had been recalling his care for them in the days before his own death.

He described him as "principled almost to a fault when it came to the cause of what he believed was right".

The chief mourners at the funeral were Fr Tuffy's parents, Eileen Ann and Muredach.