Father Jack Finucane obituary

Other lives: Catholic missionary who became a leading figure in international aid efforts

Father Jack Finucane, who has died aged 80, was a Catholic missionary whose life became inextricably linked with the aid agency Concern Worldwide.

Born in Limerick city, Jack was one of seven children of Brigid-Delia (nee Byrnes) and John Finucane. His father was general manager of JJ O’Toole’s paper merchants.

Following in the footsteps of his older brother Aengus, at 18 Jack entered the Spiritan Novitiate at Kilshane, County Tipperary. He was ordained in 1963 and three years later was a young parish priest in rural Nigeria when the outbreak in 1967 of the Biafran war led to him moving from pastoral to emergency relief work.

As famine raged in Biafra and on television screens worldwide, food was shipped from Ireland and flown onwards via Caritas, the international Catholic agency, to Biafra, where Jack and fellow Spiritans then organised it into road convoys. After the war, having been briefly imprisoned, he was expelled from Nigeria.

After a short teaching spell in Ireland at Rockwell college, a Spiritan school in County Tipperary, and MA studies at the University of San Francisco, Jack was appointed in 1973 to head the operations in postwar Bangladesh of Concern, as the international NGO with headquarters in Dublin was then known.

The following year he moved to Ethiopia, to head the work of Concern there from its national headquarters in the capital, Addis Ababa. He subsequently did a second – and longer – stint as country director in both countries. His six years in Ethiopia from 1984 coincided with its devastating famine and, standing apart from other aid agencies, he decided to work with those people who had been forcibly resettled internally by the government.

From 1991 he became Africa regional director of Concern and, with the expansion of Concern’s work, regional director for the Horn of Africa. He lived in Dublin. Jack was directly involved in responding to some 20 humanitarian emergencies including Rwanda – he was shocked by his visit to Kigali prison – Sierra Leone, Somalia and, after he “retired” in 2002, Darfur in western Sudan and Sri Lanka after the tsunami in 2004.

Jack love of travel saw him climb Mount Kilimanjaro, drive through eastern Europe at the height of communism, and walk on the Great Wall of China. The hurling and Gaelic football that he played in his youth were replaced in later life by golf.

He is survived by his brother Joe and sisters Mary and Patricia.

Peter O'Mahony

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Father Mícheál Lynch obituary
Other lives: Roman Catholic priest noted for his community work and fundraising skill

Maeve Lynch

10, Jan, 2018 @6:06 PM

Article image
Father Bill Boyd obituary
Other lives: Roman Catholic priest who supported British forces and their families in Germany

John McGowan

22, Sep, 2016 @4:42 PM

Article image
Father Tom Heneghan obituary

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

Tom Holland

25, Mar, 2013 @6:37 PM

Article image
The Most Rev Eamonn Casey obituary
Roman Catholic bishop who caused a scandal when it was revealed that he had fathered a son

Stephen Bates

16, Mar, 2017 @1:12 PM

Article image
Letter: The Most Rev Eamonn Casey obituary
Ruth Colgan writes: Father Eamonn offered humanity, humility and an ability to relate to ordinary people

Ruth Colgan

07, Apr, 2017 @4:25 PM

Article image
Texas anti-abortion law shows ‘terrifying’ fragility of women’s rights, say activists
Campaigners fear ban emboldens anti-choice governments as more aggressive opposition, better organised and funded, spreads from US

Lizzy Davies

18, Sep, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
Father Gabriele Amorth obituary
Priest and founder of the International Association of Exorcists

John Hooper

26, Sep, 2016 @3:15 PM

Article image
Father Andrew Greeley obituary
American Catholic priest, sociologist, theologian and author of racy bestselling novels such as The Cardinal Sins

Michael Carlson

06, Jun, 2013 @4:00 PM

Article image
Charles Wickham-Jones obituary
Other lives: ICI chemist who found a new role in charity work in post-industrial Britain

Mark Wickham-Jones

31, Jul, 2017 @4:03 PM

Article image
Glyn Roberts obituary
Other lives: NGO founder committed to building solidarity between aid donors and recipients

Adam Roberts

06, May, 2016 @5:48 PM