Wednesday 17 July 2019

Sadness at death of Mell's Fr Larry

Inspirational local priest Fr Larry McDonnell, who played a pivotal role in the growth and development of thousands of Swazi boys passed away in Swaziland on Christmas day.

Only recently, he had his life been told in a formidable biography that was published late last year, written by one of his pupils and was entitled Larry, Simply Larry.

Born in 1935, at St Catherine's, Mell, he was the son of Micheal and Mary McDonnell. Fr. Larry was ordained in Turin, Italy as a Salesian priest and spent the majority of his life educating young boys in South Africa. He left Ireland in 1970 and since then as well as contributing enormously to the community in Manzini, he also, perhaps unwittingly, played a crucial role in the liberation of Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe where he was totally against apartheid.

A deeply religious person, caught up in struggle politics, while trying to give the boys in his care the best possible start in life, he did this through the Bible and the chalk board. He also set-up innumerable community projects and businesses in Manzini, constantly seeking the support of those who could afford it to assist those less well-off in life. He was an idealist in so many ways.

The current Prime Minister of Swaziland Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini is a former pupil of Larry's and paid a glowing tribute to his former teacher, 'Fr. Larry - Inyoni (as he was fondly called by most of us who were his students) faithfully fulfilled his ministry up until the last few months of his life, when ill-health finally overcame him. He was well known and loved by us students and the entire Eswatini nation. Father Larry was an extra ordinary person. His accomplishments and impact in the country will be felt by many generations to come.,

Fr Larry would come home every two years for a two-month break and he would spend that time with his sister Mary Reilly (nee McDonnell) in Marian Park, from where he would regale his listeners with his herculean exploits in far off Swaziland and always highlighting the need for support.

As was his desire, he was buried in Swaziland with his adopted people.

His popularity was evidenced by the huge crowds that came to his final send-off.

A special mass for Larry to celebrate his life will be held on Saturday 26 January at 4pm in the Holy Family Church Ballsgrove and everybody is welcome.

Drogheda Independent