Fr Seamus Nohilly SMA – Funeral Homily

Fr Seamus Nohilly died on Saturday, 24 February 2024, in the Mercy University Hospital, Cork City. After reposing in the SMA House, Wilton, on Tuesday, 27 February, his Funeral Mass was celebrated in St Joseph’s SMA Church, Wilton, Cork on Wednesday, 28 February. Fr Seamus was then laid to rest in the adjoining SMA Community cemetery.

Fr Malachy Flanagan, SMA Provincial Leader was assisted at the Funeral Mass by the Most Rev Fintan Monaghan, Bishop of Killaloe, Fr Ciarán Blake, Parish Priest of Corofin parish, Diocese of Galway and Fr Christopher Emokhare SMA. A large number of SMA priests from all parts of Ireland concelebrated the Funeral Mass.  Fr Noel O’Leary SMA was the MC for the Mass, assisted by Fr Gus O’Driscoll. Fr Colum O’Shea SMA was the preacher. The following is the text of Fr Colum’s homily.

Seamus’ home parish of Corofin, Co Galway, has been very good to the SMA. I believe the figure could be around 12 and that is a sizeable number from a rural area.

Corofin has been very generous to the SMA and the Nohilly family of Cummer in particular.

Like the two sets of brothers Simon and Andrew, and James and John, that we read about in the Gospel, Seamus and Micheál answered God’s call to be “fishers of people”.

It tells us a lot about the religious climate of the time and the place. It produced people of great faith.

While you may not have been wealthy in the material sense of the word you inherited a rich faith. You have nurtured that faith and have passed it on to the younger generations.

It is a faith that has sustained you down the years and a faith that once more has been put to the test with the sudden and unexpected death of Seamus, coming so soon after Micheál’s death and other family bereavements.

Last December marked the 54th anniversary of Seamus’s ordination.  On and off during those 54 years our paths would have met. I had the privilege of living and working with him, here in Ireland and in Nigeria.

We were here in Wilton together in the early 1980s. Then in 1987 both of us headed to Nigeria to join up with Fr Des Corrigan in setting up a new project in Ibadan. We were to recruit Nigerians to the SMA and to set up a training programme. It was a new venture, very challenging but an exciting period in the SMA story. It was great to be part of it.

One of the young men who passed through our hands then is here today in the person of Fr. Christopher Emokhare SMA, now the FVC Director for Munster.

Seamus’ obituary notice outlines the places he served in, in Ireland and Nigeria, and the various positions he held. Reading down the long list one might conclude that Seamus was a restless person who did not settle very well in any one place. One would be way off the mark to come to that conclusion. Seamus Nohilly was a solid, dependable, steady person. To quote Seamus himself, when comparing himself with his younger brother Micheál, he says, “I am more measured, pragmatic and structured.”

During our student days I remember him on the football field. Football was his sport but he was handy with the hurley as well. When he took up his position at full back it was not easy to get around him. ‘Thou shall not pass.’

He was very organised; a great administrator. It is no wonder he was elected to positions of leadership in the Society.

His first appointment after ordination was to the teaching staff at Zawan Teacher Training College, Jos, in Northern Nigeria. Fr Bernie Cotter was on the staff with him. After a couple of years, Seamus was asked to change and go into formation work here in Wilton. From there he was posted to Ibadan.

After four years in Ibadan he was in administration in the North of Nigeria before being elected to the Provincial Council here in Cork. And, of course, he spent several years as Community Leader in Claregalway, on two different occasions.

It was not that Seamus was restless and unsettled. In fact, he settled very well where ever he was. He was always ready to go where the authorities felt he was needed, where the need was greatest. This manifests a strong generous spirit. He was very generous, he had the good of the SMA at heart.

While most of his priestly life was in formation work and administrative and leadership roles he was, I believe, at heart a pastoral person. He had a great interest in people, in their welfare; very good at visiting and keeping up contact with people, reconnecting with them. And I believe he got great energy from that pastoral outreach.

An opportunity to partake in pastoral work or parish work presented itself in 2014 when he took up an appointment at Tubber, Co Clare, in the diocese of Killaloe. He spent four happy years there. He spoke glowingly about the people he ministered to and the priests he worked with.

It was not all work and no play with Seamus. One of his appealing characteristics was his sense of humour and fun. He was very sociable, loved parties or gatherings, always had his party piece ready at hand. He had a great interest in sport, especially football. He was a proud Corofin man and enjoyed their successes on the football field. When he took to the golf he took to it like a duck to water. But his golf was very boring – par, birdie, birdie, par. No bogies.

Today’s first reading from the book of Wisdom states that “Length of days is not what makes age honourable, nor number of years the true measure of life.” Our stay in this life is short and the important thing is not how long we are here but how we live our lives.

Seamus could truly echo the words of St Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race”, even though the finishing line came sooner than expected. He could definitely say that “I have kept the faith”, the faith that he inherited from his parents back in Cummer 80 years ago. He not only kept the faith but he spent his life sharing the good news with so many people.

In family circles he was a much admired and much-loved brother, brother-in-law, uncle, granduncle and friend. You in turn were very good in supporting Seamus and Micheál.

Last week Seamus was looking forward to spending some time recuperating in St Theresa’s Unit in the SMA House on Blackrock Road, Cork, before coming back here to Wilton. That was his plan but God had a different plan. And on Saturday last when the call came to come home Seamus was ready.

I think there is a lesson there for us all. We can have all the plans but it is important at the same time to be ready when the call comes.

While we are saddened by his sudden passing there is so much to be grateful for. He had 80 good years. He was a very happy fulfilled person. He was happy in his priestly vocation. We are all the richer for having known him.

God gifted him to us and we now return him to God, where he will be reunited with all who have gone before us.

Until our paths meet again Seamus, slán go fóil.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Fr Colum O’Shea, SMA

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