A priest ‘so full of the zest of living, so brimming with ideas, so fit, so full of fun’

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“So much in love with life, so full of the zest of living, so bright, so brave, so brimming with ideas, so creative, so funny, so fit, so full of fun.”

Those were just some of the words spoken by Fr Michael Maginn at Requiem Mass for his friend and colleague Fr Martin McAlinden who passed away on Monday.

Fr Martin McAlinden

Fr Martin McAlinden

St Peter’s Church in Lurgan was overflowing with mourners this afternoon.

Tears were shed during an emotional tribute to the very popular priest.

Fr Maginn spoke of Fr Martin’s difficult struggle with cancer over the past few months and years and the ‘profound way’ he dealt with his last pain-filled months.

He told the congregation: “All the more profoundly impressive of course because Martin was so much in love with life, so full of the zest of living, so bright, so brave, so brimming with ideas, so creative, so funny, so fit, so full of fun, so full of running, jogging, cycling, swimming, such a prolific fundraiser for so many charities and good causes, so courageous in his illness and in his final days.”

It was a testament to how popular 51-year-old Fr Martin was that the church was filled with young and old, with people of all colours and creeds to hear Mass con-celebrated by Bishop John McAreavey and more a dozen other priests.

Also there was Bishop Harold Miller, Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore and a number of representatives of other Churches.

Fr Maginn spoke of his friend’s zest for life.

“Martin wanted so fervently to live, not merely to survive but to live his life positively and productively, as well and for as long as he possibly could.

“Through all the trials and tribulations of the past two and a half years: his initial diagnosis, his chemo, his surgery, his period of recovery, until the return of his cancer at the end of last summer and during all the hard hours, days and months, since, Martin was enormously comforted Barney and Mary, (his parents) by your constant loving presence and support.

Fr Maginn spoke of Martin’s journey to priesthood and his ordination at St Peter’s Church in Lurgan, his journey through the many and varied roles and appointments in the diocese, his journey to several significant academic achievements, two Masters Degrees and his doctorate at the University of Chester almost complete at the time of Martin’s death.

Martin was baptised 51 years ago in St Peter’s Church in Lurgan, and ordained 26 years ago in the same church.

Fr Maginn paid tribute to Martin as a ‘magnificent son, a kind and generous brother and uncle, a tremendous priest and a truly wonderful human being’.

Also attending Requiem Mass were Fr Martin’s colleagues and former students from Maynooth College where he took up the post of Director of Pastoral Theology two years ago.

Fr Maginn revealed: “At the time when Martin applied for the post in Maynooth, he was in the middle of that first and very severe cycle of chemotherapy just prior to his massive and life-changing surgery. I thought he was completely mad to even contemplate the rigours of the interview process, given all that he was contending with right then and I remember one Saturday night in Legahory, prior to the short-listing and interview, telling him so at the time.

“But Martin’s courage and the positivity of Martin’s vision were much broader and more expansive than mine. He travelled down from Larne to Maynooth, submitted himself to a very testing and rigorous interview and landed the job of his dreams. Maynooth clearly knew a good thing when they saw it and when they appointed Martin, they appointed a man who would give his all, his whole heart, soul and mind to his new role and to all the various responsibilities it involved.

“Martin worked in parish ministry for all but one of his brief 26 years of priesthood. His priestly ministry was truly a beacon of brief fire: Bringing Good News to the Poor, brightening so many lives, binding so many hearts, smoothing so many paths, calming so many souls, warming so many lives.

“Martin had that common touch, that ability to connect, that gift of genuine engagement with people, those gifts of truly effective ministry, which left me and the rest of us, Martin’s ministerial colleagues, stranded at the starting gate. Martin just had that wonderful gift of connecting and endearing himself to the people he came into contact with.

“He was a wonderful parish priest but at the same time there was a restlessness in Martin, always a longing for something more. It was in part a desire for the academic life but an academic life that allowed Martin to bring into play his full panoply of unique pastoral gifts and experiences.

“Director of Pastoral Theology at Maynooth was Martin’s dream appointment. Martin had arrived. He loved Maynooth. He loved the company, the challenge, the intellectual stimulation, the access to books, the chance at last to read and to write and to study in earnest. He loved the company of his peers and he relished sharing his Pope Francis-style vision of the Church and his Pope-Francis style vision of priestly ministry with a new generation of students for the priesthood. He loved the whole ambience that Maynooth provided. Martin in short, had found his true priestly and ministerial home at last.

“In the event, Martin had one brief but glorious academic year in his new post, rattling a few cages along the way, challenging the status quo, as Martin was of course instinctively inclined to do, before his cancer returned and took Martin down a road he had certainly considered, but one he had hoped he would not be asked to walk so soon: the road to Martin’s own personal Calvary.

“As our son, brother, uncle, priest, friend, colleague, as a truly authentic human being, Martin showed us how to live and how to die well in deep and intimate relationship with The Lord and with those who really count in our all too short and sometimes stormy lives.

“Martin was also a man of creative and authentic spirituality, deeply committed to The Lord but also at the same time, deeply attuned to the complexities of the world. He was so heartened by the broad and generous, person-centred vision for the Church of Good Pope Francis.

“Martin was deeply sympathetic to the many shades of grey which, if we are really honest, characterise so many of our closest relationships and so much of our lives. Martin wanted so much for the Church to reach out to those who are truly hurting and to embrace them in a truly pastoral and Gospel-centred way, as we all struggle together, to navigate the ever shifting sands of these dynamic times.”

Fr Maginn thanked the staff at Wynne Hill Surgery in Lurgan, the staff in theatres, in the ICU, in 4 South, and in the Mandeville Unit at CAH, his good friend Dr Max and the staff at the Northern Ireland Hospice both at Whiteabbey and on the Somerton Road.

“On Martin’s behalf, a very sincere and heartfelt thanks to all involved in Martin’s care,” said Fr Maginn.

Fr Martin was ordained on June 24 in St Peter’s Church and has been a curate at a number of parishes, including Newry, Saval, Drumgath, Tullylist and Seaptrick.

He became Parish Priest in Moyraverty in 2004 and remained there until 2012.

Then he was appointed as Parish Priest of Dromore where he stayed for two years.

Subsequently he was appointed to the staff of St Patrick’s College Maynooth in 2014.

He is deeply mourned by his parents, his sister Linda, his nieces Charlene and Sinead and nephew Conor uncles and aunts