A tribute to ‘the People’s Priest’ – Father Tony Corr
It was with great sadness that the people of Newry Cathedral Parish heard of the sudden passing of Father Tony Corr at the age of 57 on Sunday 6th June. He had served as priest in Newry Cathedral Parish from 2012 to 2016 until his appointment as Parish Priest of Aghaderg and Donaghmore. Even though he left the Cathedral Parish he continued to be Chaplain of 2 Newry Schools – St Mary’s High School and St Joseph’s Boys’ High School and was last seen on the altar of the Cathedral for the Blessing of the oils on Holy Thursday. He had been appointed Vicar General by Bishop Boyce in 2018 and was made vocations director by Bishop McAreavey.
Canon Francis Brown, the Administrator of Newry Cathedral Parish paid tribute to ‘Father Tony’s 27 years of tremendous pastoral dedication, boundless energy and deep commitment to the devotion of Our Lady. He had a marvellous skill in reaching out to people’. It was obvious how much the people of Newry thought of him, one parishioner said, ‘He put a lot into things and was a great mixer with all age groups but he also had an understanding of the youth and their attention span. This mixed with his wry sense of humour made him a hit with everyone. At a recent First Holy Communion he was heard say, ‘I’m not going to hold you here all day as I know you have a lot of money to collect!’.
He was also praised in various social media posts by people from the parish who described him as a gentleman, a true shepherd, someone who had a deep understanding of people particularly in times of grief and quite simply one in a million. The humanity of this priest was evident in his closeness to his own family – he took his mother shopping every Wednesday until her death a few years ago. He was also a regular visitor to Our Lady’s Shrine at Knock and the Funeral Mass played the beautiful hymn, ‘Lady of Knock’.
His funeral Mass was held on 11th June in St Thérèse Church, Banbridge. Placed on the altar was a photograph of the smiling priest which is how many will remember him. Father Tony was buried on the Feast of the Sacred Heart and at his funeral mass was a statute of the Sacred Heart surrounded by red and white flowers. He had sourced many of the beautiful statutes in the church.
The service was led by Archbishop Eamon Martin who spoke of the sadness and shock of ‘Tony’s Death’ amongst the Corr Family, his parish family as well as the family of priests. The emotion felt of his passing was very evident in the Homily given by Canon Stevenson who described him as a ‘Good Shepherd’ and the final words by Archbishop Martin summed up what many were thinking. He said…
‘Sometimes it’s hard to see God’s Plan as we struggle to accept the death of this dedicated and good priest. We needed him God. He had a great gift of relating to people and was a wonderful Ambassador for Mary. We will miss him.”Archbishop Eamon Martin
The deep affection of the congregation gathered for his final farewell was evident in the number of people who placed their hand on his coffin in their own touching final farewell as they made their way down from Holy Communion.
Father Tony played a huge part in the Dromore Diocese Lourdes Committee and also made many private visits with friends to Medjugorje. Noel O’Hare and Kevin Kearney, two long serving committee members paid tribute to Father Tony saying,
“He was a people’s priest and really was someone who couldn’t do enough for you. He worked very hard, maybe too hard.”
They were both deeply shocked to hear of the untimely death of a priest who was always available particularly when he knew a family needed his support. They added, ‘his dedication to the people was appreciated by both the people of Newry Parish as well as his fellow clergy. The reaction to his passing showed how much he touched our lives’.
As we now remember Father Tony in the month after his death the Priests and Parishioners of Newry Cathedral Parish would like to extend our heartfelt sympathy to the Corr Family and the Family of Priests with whom he served.