Although people were aware he had been ill there was still a great sense of shock and sadness when news broke of the death of Fr. Ray Reidy on Wednesday of last week.
Fr. Reidy, who was 78, passed away at Marymount Hospice in Cork after a brief illness.
He had most recently served as a curate in Ss Peter and Paul’s parish in Clonmel and the huge congregation of over 1,000 people (including 60 priests) at a Remembrance Mass in Ss Peter and Paul’s church on Friday evening was testament to his popularity.
“Ray and I were friends since 1981 when I came to St. Mary’s in Clonmel and he was a curate in Kilsheelan”, said Canon Brendan Crowley, parish priest of Ss Peter and Paul’s.
“We struck up a great friendship and played golf and holidayed together”, he said. They had served in the parish for the past seven years and Canon Crowley said that Ray’s dedication to his priestly duties made life very easy for him.
Last week’s Mass in Clonmel was conducted by Canon Crowley and concelebrated by the recently-consecrated Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan, on his first visit to the town.
Fr. Ray was chaplain to the Loreto Secondary School, as well as a mentor to the Confirmation classes at the Sisters of Charity and Ss Peter and Paul’s Schools, and pupils from those schools provided a guard of honour on Friday night. He had previously served as chaplain of CTI in Clonmel.
Ray Reidy was born in Thurles in 1937 to Sis and Ger Reidy. His vocation took him to the Kiltegan Fathers in Co. Wicklow and he was ordained a priest in 1963. From there he went on the missions to Africa, spending more than 20 years in Nigeria and Kenya. When he returned from Africa he continued to support and encourage support for his fellow missionaries.
Fr. Ray served in many parishes in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore including Kilsheelan, Cahir and Passage East before he came to Clonmel. He was based at the Church of the Resurrection but was equally familiar in Ss Peter and Paul’s. He was distinguishable around the town by his shock of white hair and tall, straight walk. He had a quiet way but was passionate about his priestly duties and had many words of wisdom that helped to inspire people.
Fr. Ray was also well-known as a stylish hurling wing back, winning a senior All-Ireland medal with Tipperary in 1958.
He also played centre back on the Tipperary minor hurling teams for three years and was captain in 1955 when they won the All-Ireland championship. He also made a notable contribution to the golden era of the Thurles Sarsfields club in the late 1950s and early 60s.
“His reading of the game, and the quality of his striking, were of the highest order”, read a statement from the Tipperary County GAA Board, which described him as a class player.
“He played with an elegance that was a delight to watch and was widely admired but when the going got tough he was never found wanting. Had he not answered a higher calling, Ray would undoubtedly have amassed many more honours at both club and county level”.
He was passionate about his beloved sport, rarely missed a hurling match that Tipperary played and loved to reminisce about his own playing career. His sister Anne’s husband was the legendary Tipperary hurler John Doyle, who died almost five years ago.
Fr. Ray Reidy was buried in the cemetery of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society in Kiltegan in Wicklow following Requiem Mass on Saturday.
He is survived by his sister Anne (Doyle), brother Gerry, sister-in-law Annmarie, uncle Flan, aunt Peggy, nephews Johnny, Michael and Conor; nieces Aisling, Margaret, Sandra, Colette, Liz and Annmarie; grandnephews, grandnieces, relatives and friends, his brothers of St. Patrick’s Society in Kiltegan, the Bishop and priests of the Waterford and Lismore Diocese, to whom sincere sympathy is extended.