A practical pastor who lived his faith


Fr Brian Moore:BRIAN MOORE was a practical man with a deep love of Africa and its peoples. When he returned to Ireland after two decades as a missionary in Nigeria, he found himself ministering to the wave of immigrants then arriving from Africa and elsewhere.

His sudden death at the age of 60 has robbed Ireland of an inspirational figure in the missionary world, and émigré Africans in Ireland of a good friend and powerful champion.

Fr Moore suffered a heart attack at London’s Heathrow airport on his way to a winter solstice ceremony at Castleknock near Dublin, attended by members of the African community in Ireland.

He was a practical pastor and he lived his faith. When an African woman and her son perished in a tragic fire in Dublin’s north inner city, he immediately arranged for her brother to come to Ireland for the funeral and found him a place to stay.

All refugees were his concern. A Romanian family who found a home in Co Longford phoned to say their custom dictated they could not move in until it was blessed, so Fr Moore set off by car immediately.

A big man, in every sense, he enjoyed a pint and a singsong as well as the next man, and his enthusiasm for rugby, soccer and Gaelic football was infectious.

He was the eldest child of Willie and Molly Moore of Grangebeg, Dunlavin, on the west Wicklow-Kildare border, and his loyalties lay on the Kildare side whenever the Lilywhites took the field.

He joined the Vincentian order (Congregation of the Mission) in 1969, aged 18, and was ordained in 1975, just before his 24th birthday.

Initially he worked at St Paul’s College, Raheny, Dublin and briefly in England, but the crucial appointment was in 1981 when he was sent to Nigeria, where his life’s work as an African missionary began. He spent the next two decades in Nigeria, first in Ogobia and then in Ikot Ephete, the “Raffia city”, in the Niger delta.

When he came home in 1997 it founded, with Sr Breege Keenan, what became the Vincentian Refugee Centre in Phibsboro, Dublin, where many recent immigrants initially settled.

He could see the practical and cultural problems affecting the newly arrived and set about helping them. A consultation process identified priorities: the need for a place to meet, to help with immigration formalities, to set up English classes and to alleviate the boredom of not being allowed to work. Many people said the day began and ended with breakfast.

By 2007, when Fr Moore was elected provincial of the Vincentian order in Ireland and Britain, the centre was an established part of the life of many of Ireland’s newest citizens. The spire of St Peter’s church in Phibsboro (where he had been ordained 30 years earlier) had became a beacon of hope to strangers in a strange land. The centre expanded and moved to Cabra Road nearby.

A poem written by Fr Lazarus Iweuko, chaplain to the African community in Dublin, expressed the hope that in the next life, “may they welcome you just as you were welcoming to us”. Fr Lazarus was a Vincentian seminarian in Nigeria when he met Fr Moore, who became a lifelong friend and mentor.

Fr Moore is survived by his brothers John and Tom Moore, and their families.

Fr Brian Moore: born June 23rd, 1951; died December 19th, 2011