It is with a heavy heart that we learn today that Fr Des Hillery will be leaving Nenagh after ten great years as our Parish Priest/Co-PP.
The 2022 Killaloe Diocesan appointments this afternoon, stated that “Fr. Pat Gilbert, returning from leave of absence will be Co-PP in Odhrán Pastoral area and VF and to reside in Nenagh” will succeed Fr Des.
As spiritual leader of our Catholic community during the past decade, Fr Des has steered the parish through periods of enormous change and challenge.
Among the most serious difficulties was a lightening strike that caused serious damage to St Mary of the Rosary church in 2014. His cool, reasonable and rational approach to the problems thrown up by that calamity not only saw the repair of the damage but a continuation of the restoration plans that leave our church in such a wonderful condition today.
Without question, his most immense, and indeed sombre challenge, was to guide us all through the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the early lockdowns. Preaching to a camera in empty churches is not what any priest signs up for. Along with Fr Michael and Fr Rexon, Fr Des managed to extend the hand of friendship, solace, comfort, and indeed the promise of better times to come, to a frightened and lonely parish.
As he departs for his next adventure – a short sabbatical followed by a return to parish ministry in the diocese in early-2023 – Fr Des leaves an extraordinary legacy. The recent magnificent restoration of St John the Baptist church, mainly his brainchild, has been widely welcomed across the parish community. The reconfiguration of the use of parish property on church road, and elsewhere in the town, has enhanced community life and opened new possibilities for community groups.
Above all, his friendly presence on the streets of Nenagh, on his bike, has truly made him “one of our own”. We shall miss him and we know, when he returns to Ireland from his sabbatical, he will not be a stranger to Nenagh.
When we have time to process this news, Nenagh Pastoral Council will announce a proper tribute and public event at which the people of our community can express their thanks to Fr Des Hillery.