Priest killed in robbery 'would be humbled' by fitting tribute
Published 12/12/2011 | 05:00
A MISSIONARY priest who was murdered in Kenya two years ago has been remembered with a specially commissioned bust unveiled in his home village.
Fr Jerry Roche (68) was beaten to death during a robbery at his home near Kericho, Kenya, in 2009.
He was due to retire in Limerick last year after more than four decades working in Africa.
His sister Eileen and brother Christy returned from Chicago for a special afternoon Mass at St Bartholomew's Church in Athea, Co Limerick, yesterday before a bronze bust was unveiled on the adjacent grounds. They were joined by his other sister Hannah who now lives in Dublin.
Designed by renowned sculptor Alan Ryan Hall of Valentia Island, the priest's niece Aine Cunningham said the bust reflected what was important in her uncle's life.
"That's what he lived for -- the rosary beads and the Bible. Not a day went by that he didn't say the rosary. It was a time for him to reflect and meditate -- it was very important to him," Ms Cunningham said.
"We never expected anything like this. He would be very humbled by it all." She said her uncle lived his life as he preached.
"When he came down off the altar, he was the same man as he was when he was up there.
"There was a bit of roguery in him, too. He was the life and soul of every party and loved his music and dancing. When he was back here, he would love to go out," she added.
Three men -- Isaac Bett, Jackson Kosgey and Joshua Makori -- were sentenced to death in a Kenyan court for Fr Roche's murder. It is understood the sentence is on appeal.
In a spirit which they say would reflect Fr Roche's wishes, his family has pleaded for clemency for the trio.
"He didn't believe in violence. The taking of a human life is not for another human to do and retribution by death would solve nothing. He would not want it.
"They are behind bars and let's leave it there," Ms Cunningham said.
Also present in Athea yesterday were former parishioners of Fr Roche's who travelled from Granagh in Co Cork, Castleisland in Co Kerry and Bruff in Co Limerick. A documentary on Fr Roche's life was shown after the bust was unveiled.
Michael Woulfe -- a life-time friend of Fr Roche -- said the priest loved returning home to Athea. "He was going to retire here. The sad thing about it, he had almost completed his last parish and was building his last church in Kenya.
"He always worked in very dangerous environments and circumstances, but he never had any fears or worries."