Monthly Archives: June 2015

Bishop Flynn’s Funeral Mass


(Courtesy of Brian Farrell, Photographer ©Brian Farrell)




(Sent  from Vatican by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State via Papal Nunciature)



In the end, to have followed Jesus is the only thing that matters. Thomas Flynn, born on 8 July 1931, was brought as a new-born infant by his parents to be baptised in this historic Cathedral four days later on 12 July, 1931. So that he would know and follow Jesus. Ordained a priest of the diocese on 17 June 1956, he was ordained a bishop twenty-one years later on 20 February 1977, at the age of forty-six. All of this in response to the continuing call of that same Master.

Though he retired officially on 20 November 2007, he continued to administer the diocese until I was ordained on 27 January 2008. So he had been chief shepherd of this diocese for thirty years and eleven months. It was, like that of his two immediate predecessors, a long tenure. Despite the fact that his years as chief pastor of this diocese were not always the easiest, Bishop Tom always said that he had enjoyed being a bishop. He was not a man to complain. He followed Jesus.

14-IMG_1615The Gospel we have just heard provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what it is to be a good shepherd, and it is instructive for all of us in whatever shepherding role we find ourselves: parent, adult, priest, or bishop. Indeed it’s a wonderful passage for any person, who wants to follow Jesus in any capacity, to ponder. It has a certain climactic quality since it is the story of Jesus’ final appearance after The Resurrection.

The context of the story is wonderful. It is so simple and so ordinary. These men who had followed Him and walked the roads with Him are back doing what they had left doing, back to their old occupations – fishermen again, for fish. And up all night at it, as happens, a futile exercise apparently on this particular occasion. And then with first light, there’s a Person on the shore calling out “have you caught anything, friends?” To their answer “no” He responds, “throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.” They take Him at his word. And futility gives way to abundant fruitfulness. Their seeming naïve obedience to the seeming Stranger on the shore was their best move ever. We are reminded of Mary at Cana to the servants at the wedding feast “Do whatever he tells you,” her last words in the Gospel – her final word for us all. A willingness and a wanting to do ‘whatever he asks you’ – this is at the basis of every priestly vocation, and indeed of every baptismal vocation. It is the beginning of ‘following’ Jesus, of discipleship and apostleship, and it is the end, too. The alpha and omega of the Christian life. Child-like naiveté, not sophistication, makes the disciple.

And then there is that invitation: “Come and have breakfast,” Jesus said. The good shepherd feeds His flock. They are nourished at His table. The table at which He feeds us with His own self, bread of life. Service and self-sacrifice. Service to the point of self-sacrifice. Remembering Bishop Tom, disciple and shepherd, we can do no better than allow ourselves to be fed at the table of Jesus, our friend and our shepherd … to listen to His Word, take it to heart and show it in our lives. As we are doing now.

Loveliest of all – and costliest – we have the third scene: “Simon, Son of John, do you love me?” It seems Jesus needs to know, to hear our answer, over and over … No wonder Peter is disconcerted, upset. We expect God to do the loving, to tend to us … We ask and pray continuously… But the mystery is He needs my love too, and yours … incessantly. As does His world and His people … and the implications of all of that will never cease unfolding … even to the point of taking us to ‘where we would rather not go’.

Apart from the first six years of his priesthood in Tubbercurry, Bishop Tom spent his entire life here in his native Ballaghaderreen parish. From the beginning he was a teacher, and a very good one by all accounts. The word most often used by people was kind. Quiet in disposition, and very discreet, a man of few words. As president of Saint Nathy’s, he was a reformer and moderniser, a process advanced in firm co-operation with him by his successor, Father Andy Johnston, who passed away as it turned out on the very same day as Bishop Tom, last Tuesday. At a time when school amalgamations were seen as the way to go, for wider curriculum and choice purposes, Bishop Tom and Father Andy insisted that the voluntary and Catholic status of the united Saint Nathy’s here in Ballaghaderreen was the way forward. Person-centred education, the hallmark always of the Catholic system, was a passion for Bishop Tom. On this he was very clear. Nationally, he was at the helm for many years of matters educational as chairman of the Bishops’ Council for Education, including at the time of the negotiations around what became the Education Act of 1998. Visiting the schools in the diocese and staying in touch with the young was a priority for him, something he instilled by example in the priests of the diocese too.

At the national level, he was a member for many years also of the Bishops’ Council for the Laity. Leading the diocese in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, he worked determinedly in the area of adult faith development too. He established the pastoral centre at Charlestown, and also the centre at Banada; he encouraged the development of the Father Peyton Centre at Attymass and was particularly involved in his latter years with the Sisters of Mercy in the development of the Hope House Centre for addiction treatment in Foxford. And it is to Bishop Tom that we owe the fact that we have the finest history of the diocese in Father Liam Swords’ four volumes. A deeply spiritual and wise pastor, Bishop Tom instinctively understood that there can be no healthy growth or nourishment in the present if we do not know or are attentive to our roots … and this rings true whether as a people or as a Church.

“Yes, Lord, you know I love you” Peter replied, and in his own way, at the age of eighteen, the young Tom Flynn made that simple profession of faith too. For life, as a priest. Again and again, he was called on to remake it. At his priestly ordination in 1956. Again as a new bishop in 1977. I think we can confidently say that he responded as best he could to the commission of his Master: ‘Feed my sheep’ in those demanding active years, when we are called to reach certain heights, perhaps, as the world sees it. Time when we are able to ‘fasten our own belts and walk where we like’.

But in God’s scheme of things, this is never the whole story, and if we make it so, we are the fools. For ten years now Tom Flynn became more and more familiar with that other side of following that Master into whose body he was baptised and ordained to serve. The ups and downs of health and strength and energy were his constant companions, until finally a year ago he reached the nursing home. “But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt around you…” Something in us all that has no wish to go there, and yet we must remember the call we answered: “Follow me.”

Do not all our roads at one time or another become a road to Calvary? All the sophistication in the world cannot avoid it. There is a final conversion that awaits us. The call of God continues. Those close to Bishop Tom have seen the changes … And seen him say his ‘yes,’ not always easily or without struggle, but yes very definitely, and he was at peace. “Is there anything you want or would like … anything at all?” The answer was invariably “No…sure haven’t I everything here?”

‘After this, Jesus said: Follow me’. ‘Unless you become like little children…’. The shepherd, becoming again the Lamb, trustingly…as with the Master Jesus, it is all that matters.

May that be our grace too, our way of saying “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

As we thank God today for Bishop Thomas Flynn, we entrust him with faith and love to His great mercy.

Faoi shuain lena Mháistir dílis and lena mhuintir imithe roimhe go raibh an tEaspag Tomás anois sna Flaithis. Amen.

Death of Bishop Thomas Flynn


bishopflynnWith sadness we announce the death of our retired bishop, Thomas Flynn, R.I.P

Born in 1931, Bishop Thomas was educated in the De La Salle N.S., Ballaghaderreen and St Nathy’s College.  He entered St Patrick’s College Maynooth and was ordained a priest of Achonry Diocese in 1956.

Appointed Bishop of the Diocese in December 1976, he was ordained bishop on 20th February 1977 and was bishop for almost 31 years.

Having served our diocese as priest and bishop for close on sixty years, we commend him to the care of God who called him to ministry.  May he enjoy the Eternal Rest promised to the “good and faithful servant”.

“At last all powerful master, you can let your servant go in peace”.


Bishop Flynn's Coat of Arms

Bishop Flynn’s Coat of Arms


Cathedral of The Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

Reposing:  Friday June 5th from 6pm-9pm

Funeral Mass: Saturday June 6th, 3.00pm



It is with a sense of deep sadness that I announce today the passing of Bishop Thomas Flynn, emeritus bishop of our Diocese of Achonry. Bishop Tom passed peacefully and very quietly into Eternal life last night – he had been in declining health for some time.

Bishop Tom was a native of Ballaghaderreen parish, where he also ministered as a priest, bishop and teacher for most of his life. Ordained as a priest in in 1956, he was appointed a bishop in 1977 and retired in 2007. He is remembered with fondness, for the kind and gentle way in which he carried out his ministry as a priest and as Shepherd of the diocese during all those years. An able communicator, Bishop Tom had a particular interest in, and passion for, Catholic education, having served for many years as teacher and President of Saint Nathy’s College. In addition he played a central role, nationally, serving on the Council for Education of the Irish Episcopal Conference.

Bishop Tom encouraged and implemented the reforms and developments of the Second Vatican Council with enthusiasm and determination in the diocese. He oversaw the establishment of centres for adult faith formation and pastoral education in Charlestown and Banada Abbey. He was particularly happy with the opening of the Father Peyton Centre for Family Prayer at Attymass, and the establishment of the Hope House addiction centre in Foxford.

Bishop Tom liked to say that he had had a happy life. He lived his final years with a deep sense of gratitude to God, and to all the people in his family and diocese that he had been privileged to serve.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis agus solas na bhFlaitheas go bhfeici sé.


· Bishop Brendan Kelly

Bishop of Achonry



I was saddened to learn of the death of Bishop Thomas Flynn, Bishop Emeritus of Achonry. While his time at the Bishops’ Conference preceded mine his reputation as a pastoral leader with a great love for Catholic education was known throughout Ireland. Bishop Flynn led the Diocese of Achonry for almost 31 years until his retirement in January 2008. I offer my prayerful condolences to his family, friends, to Bishop Brendan Kelly and to the priests and people of the diocese.

As a member of the Bishop’ Conference, he served on its Council for Communications and acted as spokesperson; he was chair of the bishops’ Education Commission between 1992 and 2004, and contributed to discussions around the Education Act of 1998. Bishop Flynn also played a creative role in the Bishops’ Laity and Social Welfare Commissions.

As Bishop of Achonry, he promoted adult religious education through the building of a pastoral centre in Charlestown and the establishment of diocesan centres and parish centres for religious education. Bishop Flynn was also involved in the Catholic Bishops’ Develop the West initiative.

As we remember Bishop Flynn, a man with a great passion and grá for education, it seems appropriate to share some of the words of another great man of education, Saint Thomas Aquinas, who said: “If, then, you are looking for the way by which you should go, take Christ, because He Himself is the way.”

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

  • Eamon Martin
    Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference



Canon Andrew Johnston. R.I.P.


The death has taken place of Canon Andrew Johnston, a priest of our diocese.

Fr Andy retired in 2009 on grounds of poor health.  He has been cared for since that time.

Our sympathy to his nephew, nieces and their families and to his wide circle of friends.

May he rest in peace.  Amen.



  • Born: 31st July 1938 in Abbeyquarter, Ballyhaunis.
  • Educated Ballyhaunis N.S. and St Nathy’s College
  • Ordained: June 1964
  • Ballymote Parish Summer 1974
  • Appointed CC Bonniconlon 1964-66
  • Appointed to St Nathy’s College
    • Dean 1966-1973
    • Teacher 1973-1982
    • President 1982-1996
  • Sabbatical Rome: 1996-1997
  • Appointed Parish Priest of Foxford 1997
  • Retired 2009



“There was darkness over the whole land” towards the end, and the cry “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”… And then the tomb…and the very big stone shutting him in.

In the light of the last years of Fr Andy Johnston’s life, the Gospel account resonates …and those words – ‘Darkness’, ‘deserted’, ‘tomb’   : they give food for us to ponder, gathered here as we are to remember Canon Andy, in fondness and in faith.

He was born almost 77 years ago in Ballyhaunis. Secondary School in St Nathy’s meant he became a priest of this diocese of Achonry. The same St Nathy’s figured strongest in his life as a priest: 20 years in all, as Dean, teacher and eventually a very effective and transforming President. After a sabbatical year in Rome, he came here to Foxford as ParishPriest in 1997. He was very happy here. And though away since his retirement in 2009 on health grounds, he is now back again, and here he will remain, his final resting place. This is what he wanted.

Fr Andy was an imposing figure. Somewhat reserved and private. Nevertheless very approachable and very fair. The word that keeps coming up when people talk of him is kind.

These last months, I have been around the diocese doing Confirmations, the Sacrament of the Holy Spirit. The gifts given to all for the sake of human flourishing, but dormant unless we choose to awaken and use them and allow them bear their fruits. My last visit to Foxford was a few weeks ago to confirm 69 young people from the parish area. Looking on Fr Andy in the light of these gifts, we see he was a man of some wisdom, he read widely, prayed constantly and worked hard. He was understanding,  and fair in judgement, and courageous in decision.  The Gifts of the Holy Spirit were alive in him. Consequently he bore the fruit, especially kindness. But not only that. His family especially will have known his love. He was patient, too, faithful , loyal, and gentle. There was a peace around him. And in these last years too, TG. One man described him as a perfect gentleman and totally confidential.

 I mention all of these qualities not in order to eulogise the man whom I know was human too, like the rest of us, but in order that we might today all the more deeply give thanks to God and to the Holy Spirit whom Andy had the grace to allow come alive in him in so many ways.

And then we come back to those final years when he was, to put it gently, away from us. There have been many extraordinary advances in medicine and science in our modern era, cures and promises of cures. We live longer. And yet, the mystery remains to challenge and test. Truth is, the more the mysteries are unfolded, the deeper they become. Alzheimer’s disease confronts us with that mystery. At its most uncomfortable. Regardless of education or qualification, we flounder in coping. For us, who have to watch, it is unbearable. We can’t speak for the one on whom the dementia has descended. “When the 6th hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the 9th hour.” And a kind of chaos. “The veil of the temple was torn in two.” But the centurion got it right. “In truth, this man was a son of God.”

So today, and yesterday, we have come, many people have come, to anoint him with our prayers, like those women with their spices. The stone, too big for us, which locked him in, has been removed. And Andy, like Jesus, to whom in the idealism of his youth he gave his life, is free again, with a freedom we cannot even begin to imagine, please God.

The first reading tells us: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty.” I think we can say on reflection today, that God did indeed choose Andy to bring this good news. And not just by those admirable and important things he did, that the world rightly lauds, but above all like his Master through the poverty, which so challenges us all, that he lived like his Master at the end.

Every Mass begins by asking the Lord’s mercy as we prepare to celebrate the sacred mysteries. One way or another, all our lives reflect and contain these mysteries of the passion of the Lord. May God give us the grace to live them well and to offer them with Jesus,  surrendered,that the world and all we love may be saved.

So we thank you Lord for Fr Andy Johnston for the life, the love, and the passion of Canon Andy Johnston agus ar do dheas-lámh go raibh sé faoi shíocháin.