Fr Daniel O’Neill SMA – Obituary

Fr Daniel J O'Neill SMAFr Dan O’Neill passed to his eternal reward at 2am on Saturday, 27 August 2016, in St Theresa’s Nursing Unit, SMA House, Blackrock Road, Cork. He was aged 78 years.

Dan O’Neill was the youngest child born to John and Johanna [née O’Sullivan] on 9 December 1937 in Oristown parish, Co Meath. He was baptised Daniel Joseph the following day in St Catherine’s church, Oristown. He was confirmed in St Mary’s Church, Navan, on 2 May 1947. The family lived in Donaghpatrick, Navan.

His primary schooling took place at Gibstown & Oristown National School. He attended CBS Kells [1951 – 56] and after his Leaving Certificate he entered the SMA Novitiate at Cloughballymore, Kilcolgan, Co Galway, becoming a temporary member of the Society on 25 June 1957. An older brother, Patrick, was a member of the Christian Brothers.

From 1957 – 1960 he did a BA Degree at UCC in History, Geography and Philosophy. In 1960, Dan began his theological studies at the African Missions Major seminary at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. He became a permanent member of the SMA on 12 June 1963 and was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Colman, Newry, on 18 December that same year. There were ten SMA priests ordained that day by a Dominican bishop, Bishop Eusebius Crawford OP, who was a bishop in the Solomon Islands and was home on a break from the Second Vatican Council at the time.

During his time in formation Dan was noted as a fine footballer. Before joining the SMA he played Minor football for his native Meath. He also had a keen interest in photography, which remained with him all his life.

On 9 October 1964 he left for Nigeria on the SS Apapa. Fr Dan was appointed to “the Tyrocinium and Pastoral Year courses” at the SMA House in Kagoro, where he studied the Hausa language and culture of the people before his appointment to Jos diocese. He was to spend the next 30 years in Jos. His fist mission appointment was to College of Mary Immaculate [a Teacher Training College] in Kafanchan but, in 1968, he moved into fulltime parish ministry which gave him much greater fulfilment than the teaching ministry. It was at this time that Fr Dan began to experience health problems, following surgery which didn’t heal as well as expected. He served first in Pankshin for five months and, from January 1969 – July 1970 he served in Akwanga. He later served in Kwande and Shendam. After the erection of Bauchi Vicariate from Jos Archdiocese in 1996, Fr Dan was appointed to Biliri parish where he served until a recurrence of ill health forced his final return to Ireland.

After a period of convalescence at home with his family and in the SMA House, Blackrock Road, Cork, Fr Dan was, in 1999, appointed to the SMA House in Claregalway, Co Galway. In November 2001 he was appointed FVC Director for the West of Ireland and he travelled all over Connacht where he put the mission of the SMA before the Irish people encouraging them to pray for and support vocations to the missionary priesthood in Ireland and in other parts of the Society, particularly in Africa.

Ill health was part and parcel of Fr Dan’s life for many decades and it was to eventually force his retirement from fulltime active ministry in 2005. But Fr Dan was not a man to ‘sit back and relax’. Prayer was an integral part of Fr Dan’s daily life. His great devotion to Our Lady found him travelling the road most weekdays to assist at Knock Shrine. He also led a Prayer group in the SMA House, Claregalway and this continued right up to January 2016 when he had to retire to the St Theresa’s Nursing Unit at the SMA House on Blackrock Road, Cork, where he died peacefully on 27 August 2016.

Funeral arrangements

The Reception of Fr Dan’s remains on Sunday, 28 August, and the concelebrated Funeral Mass can be seen via Webcam on Monday, 29 August, by clicking on this link: Wilton webcam.

Saturday, 27 August: Reposing at the SMA House, Blackrock Road, Cork from 5.30pm. Rosary at 7pm.

Sunday, 28 August: Prayers for the Deceased at 7pm followed by removal to St Joseph’s SMA Church, Wilton, Cork.

Monday, 29 August: Concelebrated Funeral Mass at 12 noon followed by burial in the community cemetery.

He is survived by his brother, Hugh, nieces and nephews, grandnephews and grandnieces, relatives and friends and confreres in the Society of African Missions.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis. Requiescat in pace.

Homily preached by SMA Vice Provincial Leader, Fr Malachy Flanagan, at the funeral Mass

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