Murdered missionary priest laid to rest

 

An Irish Columban priest was yesterday given a final resting place in his native parish, 53 years after being murdered in the Philippines.

Hundreds of people yesterday joined the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, to celebrate the life of Father Tommy Flynn (42) in his home village of Kilkishen in east Clare.

Father Flynn was murdered on October 30th, 1950 during an attack by a communist tribe on the village of Labrador.

The Columban priest who initally buried Father Flynn's remains in the Philippines over half a century ago was also present yesterday to officiate at the funeral Mass.

Father Joe Gallagher - now in his 80s - was serving in the adjoining parish at the time of the attack and yesterday described Father Flynn as "a very kind man".

Father Gallagher told the mourners how Father Flynn was ordained in Dublin in 1935 and joined the British army as chaplain to the Gurkhas in 1941, before joining the Columbans in 1947.

Father Flynn was working in the Philippines for only eight months before his murder and Father Gallagher described how he was alerted about the attack. "I was told that several people were killed and that Father Tommy was missing. I was able to drive to Labrador in a second World War jeep. When I got there, I was able to bless and anoint the dead, but there was no sign of Father Tommy."

Father Gallagher said that it was during an examination of a burnt house five days later that fragments of rosary beads belonging to Father Flynn and bones were found.

Father Gallagher took the bones back to Labrador two years later to allow a funeral be held for Father Flynn where a tomb was erected.

However, Father Flynn's family was unaware of the burial and last year his niece, Ms Mary Rose O'Brien, commenced a search for the whereabouts of her uncle's remains.

After several inquires with the Columbans, Ms O'Brien was successful in finding out where her late uncle was laid to rest, resulting in Father Flynn's remains being brought back to Ireland by Father Donie O'Dea from the Philippines at the weekend.

Yesterday's funeral Mass was attended by over 30 Columban priests who also celebrated the life of another Columban Clare-born priest, Father Tom Cusack who was murdered in Korea in 1950, but whose body was never found.

Ms O'Brien said after the funeral Mass: "I am delighted with today. It is a celebration of these two men and the faith of the community that produced them. These were great men who gave everything they had for their faith."

Father Flynn's sister, Sr Marie Flynn of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, said: "There is tremendous pride in Father Flynn and Father Cusack."