Fr Tony King – 2003

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Fr. Harry Bohan’s pays tribute to his friend Fr. Tony on his 40th anniversary as a priest

Tony is a soul-full man and one of the best pastors I know. As we go through life there are a few people who leave a deep and lasting impression on us. Tony has done that for me and, I’m sure, for many others.

It is said that out of the desert prophets come. Tony didn’t come from the desert but from Cleggan, the most westerly part of Ireland where the land tumbles into the sea. In that wildly beautiful place, a person can wrap the mind around the world and rediscover what is important — really important. The spiritual connections with the sea and land, with the silence, with one’s own soul takes on a new meaning – and in there the discovery that relationships are vital for human living and for survival.

Tony was deeply connected to that place, to its people, his family. He had a deep sense of the power of the sea and, with the land, it reflected for him the power of God and the means of survival He carried that with him through life.

Listening to him talk about his ‘growing-up’ l can so easily picture that place together with the early morning smoke from the chimneys, the mist on the mountains and hear the bark of a dog in the silence. l can see himself and his father amble through the fields, Tony the eldest of seven and the one who was going to give up all this beauty and connection with people and place. He was going to be a priest. That decision wasn’t easy but it was a time when God permeated all of life. ‘Welcome be the will of God’ was the response to most things. The hand of God was in everything. To this day his wonderful mother, still hale and hearty, measures all of life against her relationship with her God.

St. Jarlath’s, Tuam, and the parishes of Westport and Athenry have benefited from Tony, his priesthood and his rootedness in the mountains, valleys, sea and land. He is deeply rooted in these, in family and his God. He has a remarkable love for and ease with people. He reminds me often ‘Harry, I get my energy from people. The priesthood is all about walking the roads, listening to people’s stories, being there when they need you.’

Like all of us Tony’s priesthood would have been tested in the past few years. There is no doubt priests have been hit hard in the last two decades. The church has been going through rough times. And some very critical questions have to be faced. There is a lot of honesty and courage needed to face the future. The very mission of the church and the vision of Christ and Christianity depend on these. I have no doubt that Tony King, in all his humanity and indeed because of that, together with his deep faith in God, has that honesty and courage. And he has the humility to search and keep on searching to improve the way things can be done. He is all the time keeping in touch with what is going on in the world of pastoral initiatives, new thinking and writing on the word of God, the Sacraments and all the time with the people in mind.

l could go on. These are but a few reflections I have to share with you – readers of the Athenry Journal — on Tony. He and I go back forty-seven years to 1956 when we entered Maynooth College on the same day. We were ordained seven years later, on the 23rd June 1963. We weren’t close friends in Maynooth but we re-connected in 1976 when one of our class-mates, Enda Muldoon, died tragically. Tony, Fr. Andy Kennedy and myself had a meal together after Enda’s funeral. There was a suggestion that we should meet more often and indeed invite others from the class to meet with us. Six of us classmates now meet regularly. We pray, share experiences, and have a meal together. In all, we meet about eight times in the year.

Tony and myself, however, meet much more often and are frequently on the phone to one another. In other words, we have become close friends. lt is a friendship I deeply value. And in a sense it is why I can share the few thoughts with you about Tony and indeed I am delighted to do this on the 40th Anniversary of our ordination.

One last thought — the years have flown. Personally, I don’t like admitting it is all of 40 years, mainly because I don’t feel the years. Even though we both say we don’t have the same energy, l think we still have the same enthusiasm and what more can we ask for.

Father Harry Bohan is an Irish Catholic Priest, sociologist and former manager of the Clare County hurling team

Cannon Tony King has contributed many articles to the Athenry Journal!

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About this record

Written by Fr Harry Bohan

Published here 10 Feb 2024 and originally published Summer 2003

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