Priest who brought ‘ripple of smiles’ passes away

Tributes have been paid to a popular County Derry priest who passed away on Tuesday, aged 86.

Fr Brian O’Donnell was a totemic figure in local GAA circles. He served as parish priest in Lavey from 1989 until 2010, overseeing an exhilarating period in the local GAA club’s history.

He also held the role of president at Erin’s Own, and in an emotional online tribute, the club described him as the ‘pied piper of Laveyites’, such was his influence in the parish.

“Lavey’s greatest supporter has gone to his eternal rest. Our club is saddened to announce the passing of our former parish priest (1989-2010) and club president, Father Brian O’Donnell,” they said.

“It’s a sadness that quickly turns to fond rememberence for anyone that knew or encountered Fr O’Donnell during a magical time in our history.

“That reaction is perhaps the measure of the man and how he will be remembered and appreciated. He brought a ripple of smiles and warm greetings to every arena that he entered, from Gulladuff to Celtic Park to Armagh to Croke Park. A pied piper for Laveyites.

“The scarf. The hat. The bears! The blindingly yellow bulletins. The excitement of the Sunday after a match. What would he say? The exuberance and the orange and black coloured joy.

“All indiscretions committed on a pitch were forgiven instantly. They were magical times with a man who was the epitome of what a parish is about; the pastoral care of its people.”

Lavey Parish also led tributes to Fr O’Donnell, saying he left everyone he met with ‘wonderful memories’.

“It is with deep regret we inform you of the death of our former Parish Priest Fr. Brian O’Donnell,” they said.

“Fr. O’Donnell was a faithful and dedicated Parish Priest to us from 1989 – 2010. During that time he touched many people’s lives and will be greatly missed by everyone in our Parish.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Fr. O’Donnell’s family and friends during this time. We will always remember Fr. O’Donnell fondly and have wonderful memories.”

Fr O’Donnell’s remains will be reposing in St Mary’s Church, Lavey, until 10.00pm this evening (Wednesday) for anyone wishing to pay their respects.

Requiem Mass will be held on Thursday May 27 at 12.00pm, with internment afterwards in the adjoining cemetery. The mass can be viewed on webcam here.

Funeral numbers will be limited due to social distancing in the church.