Diocese says farewell to the Kilkenny bishop who took the west to his heart

The diocese yesterday bade farewell to retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan at a peaceful and hwarming Requiem Mass in Galway Cathedral.

Bishop Drennan passed away in hospital in Dublin at the weekend, and yesterday, Galway turned out in numbers to pay tribute to the affable Kilkenny-man who took the west to his heart.

Upon his retirement in 2016, he told the Advertiser that his eleven years here have been “among the happiest and most fulfilled of my life.”

“When I succeeded Bishop James McLoughlin in 2004 you, the priests and people of Galway, Mayo and Clare, made me welcome. Since then, your support and kindness, your prayers and your affirmation, have been a real source of strength and inspiration to me. For this I will be forever grateful. It was a privilege to be your Bishop. From deep in my heart I say thank you.

Martin Drennan was born on 2nd January, 1944 in Piltown, County Kilkenny. Educated at Tobernabrone National School and St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny, he studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1968.

Following his Ordination he continued his studies in Rome where he was awarded a Licentiate in both Sacred Theology and Sacred Scripture.

On his return to Ireland Fr. Martin served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan. From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.

When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997. His area of pastoral responsibility in that time was East Wicklow and South Dublin.

On the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and he was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral.

His funeral Mass was attended by Bishop of Galway, Michael Duignan and members of the Irish Hierarchy, both active and retired; Priests of the Dioceses of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora; Priests of the Diocese of Ossory; Priests of the Archdiocese of Dublin; Priests of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits ) and Priests from other dioceses, religious orders and congregations.

It was also attended by Rev. Helen Freeburn, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches in Galway; as well as Councillor Clodagh Higgins, Mayor of Galway; Members of Galway County and City Council; and Commandant Brian Walsh representing Uachtaran na hEiireann.

The gospel and homily were read by Fr. Michael Drennan SJ, older brother of Bishop Martin. After the Funeral Mass, Bishop Drennan’s coffin was carried in three relays by, in total, 18 people. Six priests succeeded by six family members, succeeded again by six priests, as he was laid to rest in the crypt beneath Galway Cathedral

In his words of welcome at yesterday’s Requiem Mass, Bishop of Galway Michael Duignan quoted Bishop Drennan.

“Reflecting on the great biblical figure of Abraham, Bishop Martin once wrote that, “Life did not wear him down. He allowed it to shape him for the best and teach him to live in the confidence that God would keep his word and fulfil his promises.” (Turning Wisdom into Wounds, 2020 )

“Today, the earthly life of Martin Drennan – a Kilkenny man to the core but a man who fell in love with the people of the West and made here his home comes to the fore.

“The life of a man shaped and chiselled by his particular life’s journey now comes centre stage. However, as a people of faith we gather not only to give thanks to God for the gift of Martin’s life.

“We also gather to pray that whatever part of Martin’s life remains unshaped or imperfect may now be shaped and reshaped in the great light of eternity and that he may be drawn ever more closely into the infinite loving heavenly embrace of God himself.

Speaking at the reception of the remains of Bishop Drennan on Tuesday night, Bishop Brendan Kelly - Retired Bishop of Galway spoke warmly of his predecessor.

“There are many rooms in my Father’s house; If there were not, I should have told you”

“The liturgy of the Church in these early Advent days focusses us not so much on the historical coming of Christ at Christmas and our preparation for that great Feast - that wilI come too. These early days, the Church wants us to focus on Christ’s promise that he will come again - the Second Coming of Christ, the end-times the future God has prepared for all the disciples of Jesus Christ. As Jesus himself told that first group of disciples at the Last Supper ‘I am going to prepare a place for you and I will return and take you with me’.

“The two readings chosen for this evening speak beautifully about what God has prepared for us: ‘a banquet of rich foods’ is how the prophet Isaiah describes it; and ‘the mourning veil’ removed, in other words no more sorrow, loss, or heartbreak - all that takes life from us; and ‘the shroud covering all people’ dispelled forever, meaning the ever- present shadow of death hovering relentlessly over all living things, and all our human creations, magnificent and ingenious as they may be.

“And then the Gospel: Jesus’ very definite but tender and consoling words to his beloved disciples at the Last Supper in their confusion at what he was telling them about him leaving them: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust in me, there are many rooms in my Father’s house...and I am going to prepare a place for you’.And ‘I shall return to take you with me’.

“On Friday morning in the hospital in Dublin Jesus was faithful to that promise for Martin Drennan. That very day he was to have come home to Galway to his house in Doughiska. It was what he wanted and was looking forward to. Home to his own place. Jesus, however already had a far better home ready for him. A home the likes of which‘eye hath not seen nor ear heard nor hath it entered into the heart of man, that God has prepared for those who love him’

“This man who in the home and home place of his youth in Piltown had fallen in love with God, and later as a young priest had made God’s Word – Sacred Scripture - his life’s study, so he could spread that Good News where ever he was asked to go, never ceasing to open up its healing comfort for us, nor shirking to put its often challenging call before us.

“So it is that we are here this evening, gathered with his family and loved ones, and here this good Kilkenny man’s bones will rest. He was happy that this would be the case, and these dioceses and city are very happy that they will rest amongst us, awaiting the coming in glory of Jesus Christ, the Merciful judge of the living and the dead,” said Bishop Kelly.


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