Irish priest who died of cancer at 36 put on first step of path to sainthood
An Irish priest may be on the path to sainthood after more than 100 people came together with a view to start the beatification process.
Fr Colm O'Brien, originally from Co Waterford, was just 36 when he died of cancer in 2009. Ordained in June 2000, he had spent eight years as curate at SS Peter and Paul, Clonmel, before being transferred to Tramore.
The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan called the meeting to explore whether his life was marked by the "heroic virtue" which would justify the Church calling him 'Servant of God'.
This is the first stage of a Vatican investigation which can lead to someone being beatified or even canonised as a saint in the Church's calendar.
More than 100 people shared stories of Fr O'Brien nine years after his death.
"It was a wonderful meeting, celebrating holiness, goodness, simplicity and faith, and it was a beautiful sense of grace on the night," said Bishop Cullinan.
"I've been hearing about Colm for years, even before I was made bishop here, and since I became bishop I heard people talking about him and the possibility of a cause going forward.
"He was a person who touched a lot of people. He would arrive late to almost everything because he would stop to talk to everybody from the car to the house and he couldn't get from one end of the street to the other without having several conversations.
"He had an extraordinary humility, simplicity and joy about him and a sense of humour."
At the Hotel Minella in Clonmel last week, people sat in groups of 10 around tables, swapping stories and recollections of the priest.
Fr Colm had lived as part of a fraternity of priests who live the spirituality of the Focolare movement, and two of his friends from that group were at the Wednesday night gathering.
"It was moving to hear testimonies of how Fr Colm always showed good humour, had a deep devotion to the Eucharist, was a person of exceptional but unostentatious piety and humility, attracted queues of people to his confessional, and bore his painful illness with great patience," said Fr Colin Rothery, a priest of the Dublin diocese.
"One person said: 'When you talked to him, you were in a special place'."
The next step will be to gather an account of the life of the priest, including the testimonies of others, and present it to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which will decide whether or not the cause can go ahead.
Bishop Alphonsus is appealing to people who knew Fr Colm O'Brien to send their accounts to: firstname.lastname@example.org marking the subject line: 'Fr Colm O'Brien'.