Death of a Missionary Priest, Father Aengus Finucane
Written by John O'Shaughnessy, Limerick Post
FATHER Aengus Finucane, the former Chief Executive of the Third World charity Concern, and a native of Limerick, where he was made a Freeman of the City, has died, aged 77. He died in the Spiritan Fathers’ nursing home in Kimmage after a short illness. The late Fr Finucane is survived by two sisters and three brothers.
He was a product of Limerick CBS and later studied Philosophy, and was ordained a Holy Ghost priest in 1958.
The Nigerian civil war four decades ago catapulted him into emergency aid.
As a Spiritan missionary in Biafra, a region that was trying to breakaway from Nigeria, he was confronted with famine.
He joined parishioners in braving bombing raids to unload relief cargoes at a local airstrip.
Supporters of Fr Finucane and his fellow missionaries raised almost €4m and sent four shiploads of humanitarian aid. They founded Africa Concern.
Minister of State for Overseas Development, Peter Power, expressed deep regret at the death of Fr Aengus Finucane.
“As a fellow Limerick man, I would like to pay particular tribute to Fr Aengus Finucane, who always retained a great interest in the cultural and sporting life of the city, although he was often thousands of miles away.
“He was a marvellous ambassador for the city and this was recognised by the University of Limerick, who conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Laws. His passing will be much mourned in Limerick.
“He had been a tireless force for good across the globe for more than four decades. As a founder member of Concern, Fr Finucane harnessed his great energy, commitment and kindness to effect real improvements in the lives of the poor and those devastated by war and disaster.
“From Biafra in the late 1960s to Bangladesh in the 1970s and Rwanda more recently, Fr Finucane brought relief and hope to millions of people whose lives were blighted by poverty and injustice.
“More than three decades after he worked in Bangladesh, locals recently remembered him as a “giant of a man”, who not only provided food and clean water, but established training centres for women and schools for children. He provided material help, but also brought them hope and the opportunity to build their own lives.
“This is Fr Finucane’s legacy and we in Ireland, along with millions of people across the world, owe him a debt of gratitude. We extend our sympathies to his brother, Fr Jack, his family and his many friends and colleagues across the world”.
Concern’s current CEO Tom Arnold described Fr Finucane as one of the greatest men of his generation who used his gifts for the welfare of the world’s poorest people.
‘He had an absolute commitment to the poorest of the poor: his work with Concern saved countless lives and improved the lives of many millions of people”.
An Taoiseach Brian Cowen, described Fr Aengus as a great humanitarian and his life’s work was to help alleviate the suffering of the poorest of the poor.
“He has made a truly impressive contribution to improving the quality of life of people in the Third World and his courageous efforts saved a huge number of lives”.
President of the University of Limerick, Professor Don Barry, paid the following tribute: “Father Finucane worked tirelessly in the service of the world’s most disadvantaged peoples.
“His passing will leave a void that is as immeasurable as the number of lives touched by his contributions.
“He was champion for the poor, an advocate for the downtrodden and risked his life working in many of the world’s worst war zones. Father Finucane was an inspirational figure who never despaired in the face of new challenges. We would like to offer our condolences to Father Finucane’s family at this very sad time”.
Co-founder of photographic agency Press 22, Liam Burke spoke fondly of Father Finucane, “He was one of the most remarkable men I ever met. He inspired everyone who met him”.
Mr Burke, who first met Fr Finucane in 1989, said they recently watched the All-Ireland final together, “He was in great spirits, although he was a bit disappointed that Tipperary lost. He was always a great supporter of Limerick GAA”.
Although Father Finucane travelled to many nations carrying out humanitarian work, Mr Burke, who had travelled abroad with him in a professional capacity, said he had a soft spot for one country. “One of his favourite countries was Bangladesh, he spent many years there and always took any opportunity he had to go back”.
Liam described Father Finucane as a proud Limerickman, “He was very very proud of Limerick and he always defended it against its critics”.