The untimely death of beloved parish priest Fr Walter Forde on Saturday has cast a far reaching shadow on communities throughout Wexford.
Born in Bunclody on June 17, 1943 Fr Forde was just eleven days shy of his 72nd birthday when he died unexpectedly in Gorey, a town where he ministered for 22 years before moving to his current post as parish priest of Castlebridge.
He was very much a Wexford man at heart and described Bunclody and his home on Church Road as a fantastic place to grow up. The majority of his life was spent living and working in the county. He studied in St Peter's College as a boarder and completed his studies for the priesthood in Maynooth. He was ordained on June 16, 1968, the day before his 25th birthday.
He completed a further year of study in Maynooth doing the H Dip leaving there in 1969 to take up a post in his old alma mater, St Peter's College. There he taught Greek and Latin but described himself as 'the world's worst teacher!'
In 1973 he became general secretary of the National Federation of Youth Clubs and in 1974 he agreed to take up a curacy in Gorey remaining there until 1996. He had a strong affinity to North Wexford having holidayed in Courtown as a young boy with his parents and siblings. In Gorey he became part and parcel of the fabric of the town and was instrumental in setting up Gorey Meals on Wheels, St Aidan's Day Care Services and the Gorey Week of the Elderly.
He was a keen historian too and established the Byrne Perry Summer School serving as chairman until his death and only recently spoke of his enthusiasm for the upcoming school which takes place at the end of the month.
In 1996 he took up duties as parish priest in Castlebridge where he remained until his death last Saturday. As in Gorey he threw himself into parish life with gusto and was deeply involved in community affairs there and was particularly involved with the Castlebridge parish journal.
He also served as diocesan press officer and edited the Ferns Diocesan bulletin. He is a former chairman of the Christian Media Trust which he found a very satisfying position. For three years he served as chairman of the Religious Press Association of Ireland.
Diocesan press officer John Carroll said Fr Forde was a true 'gentleman' and said his untimely death 'caught us all by surprise'.
Fr Forde will be deeply regretted by his loving sister Maura and her husband Ken Quinlivan, his nieces Clíodhna, Aoife and her husband Paul McMahon and his nephew Kevin, Bishop Denis Brennan and the Clergy of the Diocese of Ferns, relatives and friends.
His remains will be reposing in St. Michael's Church Gorey from 4pm to 8pm today (Tuesday). His funeral will arrive to St. Ibar's Church Castlebridge on Wednesday, June 10, for reception prayers at 3pm and reposing until 7.30pm. There will be a Mass of Thanksgiving at 8pm.
His concelebrated Funeral Mass will take place on Thursday at 11am with burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.