Funeral tributes to 'mighty' missionary
A "MIGHTY" Irish missionary murdered in Kenya earlier this month was laid to rest in his beloved Co Limerick yesterday.
The snow-dusted village of Athea was the backdrop for Father Jeremiah (Jerry) Roche's final journey to Holy Cross cemetery; a stark contrast to the scorched earth of Kenya where the 68-year-old worked for more than four decades.
The Kiltegan priest was stabbed to death at his home on the outskirts of Kericho, 200km west of Nairobi, on December 10. Kenyan police have arrested one person suspected of being behind the murder.
More than 50 priests, including Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien from Edinburgh and Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy, joined Fr Roche's family and hundreds of mourners at St Bartholomew's Church in Athea for yesterday's funeral Mass.
President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Brian Cowen were represented by their Aides-de-Camp Colonel Declan Carbery and Commandant Michael Treacy.
In a tribute to his great love for Irish music, members of Fr Roche's family danced the 'Siege of Ennis' as his coffin arrived at the church.
Chief celebrant Father Liam Blayney celebrated the Mass where mourners were reminded of a man whose life was dedicated to helping the poor in Kenya.
Fr Blayney spoke about the committed missionary who was a great gatherer of people "and they have gathered again today so say goodbye to him".
Life-long friend Mike Woulfe also spoke at the Mass and said Fr Roche would be sadly missed.
"Jerry had a lovely catchphrase when describing the people that were generous and kind to him. He would say 'God they were mighty people' or 'they were a mighty family'. In conclusion, I can say Fr Jerry Roche, for one man, was a mighty man," he said.
Fr Roche was buried at the nearby Holy Cross cemetery alongside his parents Edmund and Mary.
He is survived by his sisters Kit, Mary Ann, Eileen, Nora, Hannah and Margaret and brothers Patrick, Noel, Christy and Michael.