Tribute to Fr Patrick Moloney

Fr Pat Moloney

I first came across Father Pat very many years ago when I was a parishioner at St Thomas More’s Church, Bostall Park, Bexleyheath. I had to phone the parish priest at the Abbey Wood parish. The parish priest was out.  Instead, Father Pat chatted to me. I liked the way he spoke – he was so natural.

Over the years I saw Father Pat at various Southwark Diocese functions, but never personally spoke to him.  Then some years later I met him properly.  This time was at St Peter’s Residence in Vauxhall (near the Oval Cricket Ground).  I became an Independent resident at the Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, in 2013.  Father Henry Reynolds from St. Thomas More’s parish was already living there on the Care side.

Father Pat came regularly to visit Father Reynolds plus other priests who also lived at St Peter’s. These two Irish priests enjoyed each other’s company.  I think this was a mission for Father Pat: he wanted all elderly priests to know they were not forgotten.

Young Fr PatFather Pat was born in Limerick City on 14th October 1938. He felt a calling to the priesthood at an early age. After completing his education, he was accepted as a student for the priesthood, and started his studies at St Patrick’s College in Thurles, County Tipperary. He was ordained in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Thurles on 9th June 1963.

He then travelled to England to start his first appointment in the Southwark Diocese in 1963.  It was the parish of the English Martyrs, Walworth. The following year he was transferred to the parish of Sts Henry and Elizabeth, Sheerness, Kent.  He was there for four years. In October 1968 he moved to the parish of Our Lady Immaculate, Whitstable.

Father Pat then moved to the South-East London area where he was asked to join the team of priests in Bromley in September 1971.  He remained there until September 1976. He was then asked to serve in the parish of Abbey Wood and became part of the team in an Ecumenical Project known as the Thamesmead Christian Community. He was there until 1981 when Archbishop Michael Bowen asked him to go to the parish of St John Fisher, Kidbrooke.

After seven years, in November 1988, he was appointed parish priest of St Stephen’s, Welling.  Then in October 1996, he moved to his final parish – St Joseph’s, St Mary Cray.

In May 2003 he retired from active ministry as a parish priest as he had some health problems.  For some years Father Pat lived in a maisonette in Bellegrove Road, Welling, which had been left to him by a very appreciative former parishioner.  As his health was declining, in 2018 he moved to St Peter’s Residence.  He unfortunately caught Coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic and was in hospital for some weeks.  This weakened him further, and he passed away in January at the age of 85 years and in the 60th year of his priesthood.

After obtaining all these dates and details of Father Pat’s ministry in the priesthood, I feel I know him better now than when he was here on earth. We often talked together on many subjects. His great love was talking to everyone he met.  He always had a story to tell.  On his last few days on this earth there was a steady flow of loving caring people visiting him. He was never alone. I could see he appreciated their quiet gentle company.

All the years Father Pat lived at St Peter’s he had many appointments at Guy’s Hospital, using hospital transport. I think that is where his priestly ministry came to the fore. The drivers, Christian and non-Christian alike, made such a fuss of him – even when he kept them waiting!  On one (or perhaps more!) occasions he was asked to give them a blessing. He didn’t ask “Are you a Christian?”  For him we are all equal, children of God.

Fr Pat with dogI enjoyed his sermons – they were often about his hospital trips.  In the stories he told about his experiences, for me he brought to light the goodness of mankind.  There was one resident here who was permanently in a wheelchair. She sat in front of the altar. When she thought Father Pat’s sermon was going on for too long, she lifted her arm and pointed to her watch to let him know.  He stopped talking and said to her, “I won’t be long.”  Then he continued with what he was saying.  There was no bad feeling, just amusement.  Then when Father Pat could no longer say Mass, he sat in a wheelchair next to her.  If she thought he needed attention, she made the sisters aware of whatever the situation was.  That I realised was true love.

Father Pat’s Requiem Mass was particularly beautiful.  St Peter’s Chapel was filled.  So many came from far and wide.  I believe there were more than twelve priests present.  The main celebrant was Bishop Philip Moger and our chaplain at St Peter’s, Canon Michael Cooley, gave the homily.

After the Mass, Canon Michael, some of the sisters and residents went for the committal to West Norwood Crematorium. That also was so meaningful. It was gentle, with peaceful music being played. Canon Michael concluded with a final prayer. He had been told which button to press to close the curtains.  Then instead of pressing the button for the music, he pressed the one to open the curtains again!  That caused a smile until he finally got it right.

Knowing Father Pat as we did, we knew that he was having a laugh and letting us know he would always have the last word. We will all miss him. He has left his mark on so many lives.

So, Father Pat, on behalf of your friends at St Peter’s, I wish you farewell until we meet again.

From your friend and neighbour at
St Peter’s Residence, Vauxhall