Father Tom Heneghan obituary

Other lives: Amiable and generous parish priest of Corpus Christi Roman Catholic church on Brixton Hill, south London

Father Tom Heneghan, who has died after suffering a heart attack aged 63, was the much-loved parish priest of my local Roman Catholic church, Corpus Christi, on Brixton Hill, south London. At a time when the church has suffered several serious blows to its reputation, Heneghan's life stands as a memorial to its noblest traditions. Tirelessly ministering to one of the most diverse parishes in Britain, he was, in the very best sense of the word, catholic.

He was born in Ballyglass, County Mayo, one of seven children. As a young and, by all accounts, very handsome man in 1968, he entered a seminary: the first step in a career that would see him serving the poor and disadvantaged long after most 1960s firebrands had retired to quieter lives. His first appointment after ordination in 1973 was to St George's Cathedral in Southwark, south London, where he was part of the chaplaincy to St Thomas' hospital: the start of what would prove a lifelong commitment to parishes in London and the south-east.

In 1983, though, he did travel further afield. Leaving his parish in Gravesend, Kent, he was sent to Ecuador. The six years he spent there were to inform his ministry powerfully. When he returned to London in 1989, it was with his faith renewed, his commitment to social justice energised, and his Spanish perfected. Appointed first to St Francis de Sales in Stockwell and then to Corpus Christi, he was everything his parishioners – his Spanish-speaking ones especially – could have hoped for in a priest.

Warm and generous, gentle and fond of a drink, he was unfailingly ready to give of himself and he was as comfortable with talking to a Somalian refugee as to an old boy from Ampleforth college.

Heneghan was the kind of man who brought people together – and that, in the world of today's inner city, is a truly precious achievement.

He is survived by his five sisters and brother.


Tom Holland

The GuardianTramp

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