Fr Paddy Higgins Athenry

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Compliments of Irish Cultural House

Patrick Gabriel Higgins was born on the 11th March 1930, in Castle Lambert, Athenry, County Galway, Ireland.

His parents were Richard Higgins and Mary Ann Caulfield

His brothers Richard (Rev Fr. Scotland and Ireland), Michael (Rev. Msgr. San Diego, California), Tom, Joe and Willie. His sisters were Eileen (Holian), Tessie (Walsh) and Mary Anne.

He attended Carnaun National School, Athenry from 1935 to 1943. His teachers were Tim O’Regan and his sister Babs.

From 1943 to 1948 he was a boarder in St. Mary’s College, Galway which was then the junior seminary of the Roman Catholic Galway and Kilmacduagh dioceses.

From there he went to St. Peter’s College, Wexford, from 1948 to 1954 where he was ordained to the priesthood on the 6th June 1954.

Fr Paddy celebrated his first Solemn Mass on the 7th June 1954 in the Church of the Assumption, St Mary’s Parish, Athenry, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Fr Paddy never forgot his time Carnaun School and visited the school every time he came home to Ireland. He had great praise for his teachers Tim and Babs O’Regan. The children looked forward to his visits as he always came bearing gifts – A new leather football size 5 and a big box of sweets.

When I told him that we were thinking of having a celebration for the centenary of the school in 1991 and that we hoped to notify all the past pupils of the school who were still alive he donated to our fund and started the ball rolling. And he phoned me weekly to learn of our progress. This school reunion was a wonderful success.

In later years Fr Paddy’s health began to fail and we did not see him as often as we did! He thought that if he got better, he would retire to Ireland. However that did not happen and in the end he died sooner than was anticipated and we had lost a good friend!

The website of Corpus Christi’s Irish Cultural House noted his passing: 
Well known and revered across the Diocese of Corpus Christi and South Texas, the beloved pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, the Reverend Monsignor Patrick Higgins, passed on to his heavenly reward on Good Friday, April 9, 2004 following an extended Illness and just several days short of his 50th jubilee celebration as a Priest.

Monsignor Higgins was born on March 11th, 1930 in Athenry County Galway, Ireland and came to the Diocese of Corpus Christi in June of 1954. During his many years of service, he served as Pastor of St. Anthony’s in Violet and Ss. Cyril and Methodius, and St. Patrick’s Parishes in Corpus Christi. He also served as Parochial Vicar at Christ the King Parish in Corpus Christi, St. Anthony’s Parish in Harlingen and Our Lady of Sorrows in McAllen. For the past 10 years Monsignor Higgins served as Pastor at the Historic Holy Cross Church on North Staples in Corpus Christi.

Besides his pastoral duties Monsignor Higgins was actively involved with organizations across the Diocese serving among other things as the Spiritual Director of the Diocesan Cursillo Movement, Director of Ecumenism, a member of the Peace and Justice Commission and, at one time or another, every board and commission serving the Diocese of Corpus Christi.

Visitation will begin on Wednesday, April 14th at Holy Cross Church 1109 North Staples at 11:00 A.M. and will continue all day for those associated with the parish with the celebration of Mass at 6:30 P.M. Visitation will continue for the general public and the many groups, parishes and schools that were touched by Monsignor Higgins on Thursday April 15th beginning at 11:00 A.M. at Corpus Christi Cathedral continuing throughout the day. A special farewell by the Cursillistas will take place in the afternoon. The Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated at 6:30 P.M.

The remains will be flown to Ireland where, on Monday following Mass at the Church of the Assumption, burial will take place at Athenry, County Galway.

Matthew Sturdevant  in The Caller-Times, Corpus Christi -11th April 2004

Monsignor Patrick Higgins will be remembered by Bishop Edmond Carmody as a priest whose sermons never had “fluff,” a well-prepared leader who challenged his parish, and a golfer who always placed in the Irish golf tournament in San Antonio.

Higgins, 74, died Friday after suffering from bone cancer. He was scheduled to celebrate 50 years in the priesthood April 18, and had been a priest in South Texas since June 1954. He was most recently the pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1109 N. Staples St., for the past 10 years.

“He was always prepared, and he never took anything for granted,” Carmody said of Higgins. “He was quite successful in all the parishes he served. . . I would classify him as a one of those gifted leaders who you don’t find very often.”

In his sermons, Higgins challenged his parish to go out and improve their community, Carmody said.

In his free time, Higgins loved golfing, Carmody said. He used to organize a tournament for the clergy that was scheduled for the week after Easter, and had this year’s tournament on his agenda despite a worsening illness, Carmody said.

Higgins was born March 11, 1930, in Athenry, Ireland. During his years of service, he served as pastor of St. Anthony’s in Violet, and Ss. Cyril and Methodius and St. Patrick parishes in Corpus Christi. He also served as parochial vicar at Christ the King parish in Corpus Christi, St. Anthony’s parish in Harlingen and Our Lady of Sorrows in McAllen.

Aside from his pastoral duties, Higgins was actively involved with organizations across the diocese. At one time or another he served on every board and commission of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, said Marty Wind, a spokesman for the diocese.

Visiting hours begin 11 a.m. Wednesday at Holy Cross Catholic Church and will continue all day for those associated with the parish with a Mass at 6:30 p.m. Visiting hours for the general public begin at 11 a.m. Thursday at Corpus Christi Cathedral, 505 N. Upper Broadway. A special farewell by the Cursillistas will take place Thursday afternoon. The Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the cathedral.

Monsignor Higgins’ remains will be flown to Athenry to be buried.

Message of Thanks from Father Richard Higgins at Fr Paddy’s Funeral Mass on Monday, April 19, 2004 – Church of the Assumption, Athenry, Co. Galway, Ireland

I first want to say a few words on behalf of the family.  It is well we remember when Paddy left these shores in 1954 to begin his priestly life in the Diocese of Corpus Christi.  We were conscience of the loneliness we felt as we thought of him going so far away.  That span of 50 years is well documented in the Diocese of Corpus Christi and we are in no doubt that he left his mark and touched the lives of so many people.

But he never forgot his roots.  Only one year did he not return in that period.  His interest in home, the GAA, the Golf Club, and the Parish of Athenry never diminished.  How proud he was at the great achievement of Athenry hurling.  It was always his wish to be laid to rest in his native Parish with his own family and among his own people.

As you all observed, he did not enjoy good health over the last few years and was gradually on the decline.  It was a privilege to be at his bedside when he died and to be with him in the last weeks of intense pain.  He was resigned to die and passed away peacefully.

I want to thank the many people who cared for him in these last years particularly Dolores, Bill and Lacey Sparks and Rebecca and we want to thank you for accompanying him on his final journey home.  Thank you very much to the many nieces and nephews who went to see him in Corpus Christi.  In fact the last words he spoke were ‘Slán agus Beannacht.

Thanks to all our friends and neighbours who were so kind in the generous help and support in arranging different aspects of the funeral.  Particularly those involved in the catering and welcoming visitors.  We are indeed indebted to Eileen and Nano for their great support.

I want to thank the many people who made this Liturgy so meaningful both today and yesterday.  The choir who sang so beautifully, the amount of effort put into it, we are all so grateful to you.  Thanks to Johnny Carroll who will play The Fields of Athenry as we leave the church.  It was certainly a fitting tribute.  To all those who took part in the Liturgy, I want to thank the Priests of Galway and Tuam Diocese, those who travelled from America and Scotland and many from other parts of the Diocese including his classmates.  We are ever so indebted to the Priests of Athenry, Fr. Tony King, the Parish priest was in Corpus Christi for his final farewell.  Fr. John O’Gorman and Kieran Blake have been a tower of strength and support.  Fr. O’Gorman has made the organizing of Paddy’s homecoming as easy for us in all the arrangements and ensuring that his wishes were carried out.  So, we thank you John and Kieran for that generous giving of your time and talents.

Thanks also to Fr. Molloy and Sean McHugh for the booklet they produced.

I come finally to thank Bishop Carmody of Corpus Christi Diocese, a Kerry man and a great sportsman in his day.  His friendship and acknowledgement of Paddy’s talents are unreal.  His support for him in his last weeks we are all well aware of.  We thank you alone all of you riding in the hearse with him from Corpus Christi to San Antonio at 6 o’clock last Friday morning and then accompanying him with us to Atlanta and Shannon to arrive on Saturday morning.  Here today to officiate at Paddy’s funeral Mass and memorable tribute you paid to him for his work in Corpus Christi.  Our very sincere thanks and I want you, the people of Ireland, to show your appreciation for his having graced us with his presence here today.  How Paddy would have loved it.

Our very sincere thanks to all.

Remembering Fr Paddy‘s tirelass work- in Corpus Christi:

Assignments:  1954-60

Associate Pastor, Christ the King, Corpus Christi

Associate Pastor, St. Anthony, Harlingen

Associate Pastor, Our Lady of Sorrows, McAllen


Pastor, St. Anthony in Violet, Petronilla, Clarkwood and Hudson Acres


Pastor, Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Corpus Christi


Pastor, St. Patrick Church, Corpus Christi


Pastor, Holy Cross Church, Corpus Christi

Previous Administrative Assignments:

1981-83:  President of Priests’ Senate

1982-83:  President of Peace & Justice Commission

1970-83:  Diocesan Director of Cursillo Movement

1979-83:  Chairman of Diaconate Selection Committee

1980-83:  Chaplain, Catholic War Veterans

Civic Organizations:

Past-President, Coastal Bend Council on Alcoholism

Past-President, Violet Water Supply Corporation

Past-President, Violet Community Improvement Assn

Speakers Bureau, U. S. Department of Labor, Regional Office

Counselor, U. S. Department of Labor, NYC Program

Advisor, Nueces County Youth Programs

Advisor, Mary Carroll High School, VOE Program

President, Corpus Christi Northwest Ministerial Alliance

Member, Samarian Counseling Center

Founding Member of Loaves and Fishes

Trustee, Irish Cultural House, Inc.

Board of Directors, Palmer Drug Abuse Program

Board of Directors, Coastal Bend Council on Alcoholism

Chaplain, Ancient Order of Hibernians

Chaplain, Corpus Christi Notre Dame Club

Member, Czech Heritage Society

Ministerial Alliance

Corpus Christi Multi-Cultural Committee

Corpus Christi Corporate Recycling Association


Former Director/Member of Corpus Christi Association of Priests

Secretary, Texas Conference of Priests Council

Diocesan Director of Charismatic Renewal

Diocesan Development Board

Diocesan Personnel Board

Diocesan Director of Rural Life

Knights of Columbus, Chaplain, #5919

President, Priests’ Senate, 1980-82

Member, Knights of Columbus State Committee on Vocations of KC’s

Diocesan President, Peace and Justice Commission

Instructor, Diocesan Diaconate Program

Representative NCCB Region X, 1977-78

Member, Presbyteral Council, 1985-92

Diocesan Director, Cursillo Movement

Corpus Christi Golf Chairman (28 years)

Advisor, Beginning Experience

Chaplain, Catholic War Veterans

Member, Diocesan School Board

Member, Diocesan Pastoral Institute

Director of Ecumenism

Other Affiliations:

President, St. Peter’s Alumni of United States

Listed in Irish American Who’s Who

Member, Pax Christi, South Texas

Member, Amnesty International – Writers Forum


Texas A & M Country Church Conference

1969 Rural Minister of the Year

1977-78 Representative, Region X National Conference of Catholic Bishops

1966-73 US Department of Labor for Youth Work

Deacon Specialist, SRI Perceiver Academy, Omaha, NB

St. George Award from Boy Scouts of America

1986 US Department of Education Award for Excellence in Education to St. Patrick School

Papal Honor – July 7, 1981

Elevated to the rank of Prelate of Honor/Monsignor by Pope John Paul II

Editor’s note: This article is mainly based on reports of Father Paddy’s life and work in Corpus Christi in the website of The Irish Cultural House of which he was a founding member!  He served as President and Trustee over 20 years since the Irish Cultural House has been in existence. 

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About this record

Written by Finbarr O'Regan

Published here 28 Dec 2023

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