An enduring and colourful diocesan priest
OBITUARY: Fr M V Daly
The Diocese of Meath has lost someone who was one of its most enduring and colourful personalities, the parish priest of Stamullen and Julianstown, Fr Declan Kelly, said of his predecessor, Fr Michael V Daly.
He was speaking at the reception of the remains of MV Daly at St Mary’s Church, Navan, in the presence of the Bishop of Meath, Dr Tom Deenihan, and Fr Declan Hurley, Adm, Navan.
Fr Daly died unexpectedly on Friday 12th March at Millbury Nursing Home, where he has been residing since January 2020. He was aged 92.
Often outspoken and controversial, Fr Daly retired as parish priest in September 2004 and moved to Navan, continuing to help out in many parishes in the diocese when local priests were away or on sick leave.
Michael Vincent Daly was born on 7th March 1929 in Kilmainhamwood parish. He attended Maio National School before the family moved to Scurlogstown in Kilmessan parish. He then attended the Model School in Trim, St Finian’ College, Mullingar, and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he was ordained on 20th June 1954, along with fellow diocesan clergy, Phonsie Mackin, Peter Mulvany and Mairtin Burke.
Such was the over-supply of clergy in the diocese at the time that many went abroad to work, and the young priest went to America, where his aunt Margaret lived in New Jersey, and he worked in the Diocese of Camden, carrying out school work and hospital chaplaincy, and preparing adults from different backgrounds for the sacraments, of which there was many due to the success of ‘The Catholic Hour’ presented by Fr Fulton Sheen on television there.
After four years, he was brought back to Ireland to work as ‘reader’ in Rochfortbridge and Oldcastle, before being appointed chaplain to Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, from 1959 to 1962. He then spent three years as an emigrant chaplain in London, which he wrote was “difficult but rewarding” work.
In September 1965, he was appointed curate in Rahan, Co Offaly, where he remained until 1971 when he was transferred to Navan. He was appointed administrator in Navan in 1980 and parish priest of Stamullen and Julianstown in September 1982.
Fr Kelly said that Fr Daly had tremendous ability in finance and administration, and brought the parish from a significant financial deficit in 1982, to a significant surplus by the time he retired in 2004.
He was a very hands-on person, and could very easily be found mending a slate on the roof of Julianstown Church. Committed to church tradition, customs and lores, he was uncompromising in his beliefs, Fr Kelly said, and “today’s woke culture would be very alien to him.”
He likened him to the role of the prophet, who stirs up things, someone who “comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.”
“Fr Daly spoke his truth as he saw it, and wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo, be they clergy, politicians or architects,” Fr Kelly continued, adding that the Stamullen parish newsletters from his era make very interesting reading.
And MV Daly was “box office” at diocesan conferences, and at deanery meetings enjoyed great debate with Fr Michael Lynn of Duleek.
It was fitting that he was being buried at Stamullen’s St Patrick’s Church as patron day of the parish approached, Fr Kelly added.
Bishop Tom Deenihan celebrated Fr Daly’s funeral, which was also attended by Bishop Michael Smith, with a homily delivered by Fr Robert McCabe, CC, St Mary’s, who worked closely with Fr Daly as Army chaplain at Gormanston.
Fr McCabe highlighted MV Daly’s following of the trademarks of St Matthew, in keeping good notes, sound financial management, and working without fear or favour.
He spoke of how his experience of dealing with the Land Commission when the family moved from Kilmainhamwood to Scurlogstown was of huge benefit to him when dealing with the Land Registry on school sites, on St Oliver’s and St Paul’s schools in Navan, and Whitecross in Julianstown.
“And before his retirement, as Mosney was repurposed to accommodate those seeking asylum in Ireland, Michael Daly’s work in Camden in New Jersey in the US, and in London, formed him to make a clear point of ensuring that the Catholics and Christians coming into Mosney would be made welcome in Julianstown Church,” Fr McCabe added.
He was also chaplain to the Knights of Columbanus organisation in Navan, who paid tribute saying “Fr Michael joined our Order almost 40 years ago and was Primary Council Chaplain to his beloved CK65 Navan. He was a passionate caring a man with a deep conviction especially when he discussed current liturgical matters including Papal encyclicals.”
The board of management, staff , pupils and parents, past and present, of St Oliver Plunkett's Primary School, Navan, said Fr Daly was one of the driving forces behind the building of the school and was its first manager.
“He always maintained a huge interest in St Oliver’s, and attended many gatherings over the years, where he was always warmly welcomed. In later years when he called to visit, he was always very interested in any new developments and enjoyed regaling staff with stories of the school’s history,” said Catherine Keane Faulkner.
Eileen McCaughey, the principal, staff, and board of management of St Paul's Primary School, Abbeylands Navan, said Fr Daly had a strong connection with the school and was part of the opening ceremony in 1982.
Residing in Navan in retirement, he continued to provide cover for clergy who were ill or on sabbatical, including a period in his home parish of Kilmessan. He also acted as chaplain to Beaufort Nursing Home, Navan.
An online tribute on RIP.ie said: “A sociable and genial person, Fr Daly was good-humoured, enjoyed a good joke and a laugh as he did his game of golf. He was totally dedicated to his ministerial life and also took great pleasure in visiting "his" schools. I was very fortunate to hold a teaching post for many happy years in one, when, during his many visits to my class, he enjoyed regaling the children with his travel tales, gospel stories and the saints depicted in the stained-glass windows of the church. Fr Daly had a special empathetic talent in relating to the dying, to the bereaved and to those in need of mental support.”
Fr MV Daly is survived by his brother Matt, Trim, sister Carmel Bond, Camberley, Surrey; sister-in-law Mary Daly, Green Grove, Batterstown; nieces, nephews, relatives. He was predeceased by sisters, Teresa, Finney, and last year by Sr Peter and Agnes McGearty, and brothers, Philip and Thomas.