Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Late call to priesthood for widower Fr. SeánAugust 23, 2012 - 2:32pm
It is not many people who can say they have received all of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. The sacrament of marriage is not compatible with the sacrament of ordination as the Vatican doesn’t allow its clergy to be married. However, Seán Kilcoyne was married for 30 years and after he was widowed, he realised he had a late vocation.
Seán was 62 when he started his studies for the priesthood in Rome and on Saturday he turned 90, making him the oldest working priest in the diocese, if not the country.
A Mayo man, Fr Seán settled in Galway over 50 years ago with his young wife, Rita, a native of Caherlistrane, and enjoyed a working life as a technician for the Posts and Telegraph, now Eircom. In fact he worked with them for 40 years.
They lived in Newcastle for a while before they bought a house in Dún na Mara, Renmore, where incidentally he lives now to be near his post as chaplain in the Bons Secours Hospital.
“I had always thought I had a vocation, even as a young child but I never said it to anyone. Then I met Rita and married and it wasn’t until she died that I started to think about it seriously again,” he says.
When he told his younger brother, Colm, who is a priest, that he was thinking of joining, his brother replied “I think you might make it”.
Fr Seán remembers the support he got from the then Bishop of Galway, Eamonn Casey and says he was kind and understanding and even ensured that Seán could mention his late wife during the ordination ceremony in Galway Cathedral on June 19, 1988.
Seán studied for four years in Pieta College in Rome and was one of 95 late vocations, though the only one from Ireland.
“I loved being in Rome and I took to the studies because it was what I really wanted. I spent four years there and after I was ordained, I was first appointed as a curate in Mervue, then to Claregalway, as an administrator in Kilchreest and then to Bushypark where I spent nine years before I moved here to the Bons [Secours] seven years ago.”
You could say that being chaplain in the Bons is a return to his own parish of Renmore, where he lived as a married man.
In those days he was not only a practising Catholic but a member of the Knights of Columbanus, a fraternity for lay members and while Seán prayed for vocations on a regular basis, though as a married man, he was certainly not praying for his own vocation at the time!
“I believe it is never too late to have a vocation and the great thing is that all vocations are welcomed. Though I had a brother a priest, I really didn’t know who to turn to at the time, believe it or not. And when I did mention it, I was advised about going on retreats or take a correspondence course. I had no interest in any of those. I knew I wanted to study for the priesthood so when someone said I should speak to the Bishop, that’s what I did and I got great support.
“One of the things I do remember is the support I received from the lads I had worked with. That meant a lot to me at the time.”
Indeed he has never looked back and if anything, his life experiences have probably made him a better priest, though he is far too humble to say that himself.
He is much loved by young and old and many of his former parishioners in Bushypark consider him a friend, with some still in contact with him to this day.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.