FR Thomas (Tommy) Gillooly of the 1963 St Patrick’s Missionary Class passed away peacefully in the Care Unit of St Patrick’s, Kiltegan aged 84.
He was a very charming and engaging person who made a lasting impression on people with his sense of humour and genuine interest in others. His family was very important to Tommy and the recent deaths of his nephew David and his brother John had a deep effect on him.
Throughout his life Tommy was extremely fit and loved hill walking. During his years as Vicar General, when he was based at Kiltegan, he enjoyed nothing more than a hike through the Wicklow Mountains with his friends on a Sunday afternoon.
In May 2022 Tommy was diagnosed with a serious illness. He spent five weeks in hospital and returned to Kiltegan on July 8. He died peacefully on the morning of Tuesday, July 19.
His funeral mass was held on Thursday in St Patrick’s, Kiltegan, followed by his burial in the Society Cemetery.
Tommy was predeceased by his brothers Fr Peter SPS and John and by his brother-in-law Jimmy Rooney. He is survived by his sisters Anne Rooney and Margaret Leyden, his brother Fr Dominick, his sister-in-law Carmel, his brother-in-law Michael Leyden, his nieces and nephews and their families.
Tommy was born on January 4, 1938 to Thomas Gillooly and his wife Brigid (née Allen) of Mount Cashel, Kilrooskey, Co Roscommon. He was from a family of two girls and four boys. Three of the boys became priests.
He received his primary education at Weekfield National School and for his secondary education he went to Roscommon Christian Brothers School.
In September 1956 he followed in the footsteps of his older brother Peter (1934-2012) and joined St Patrick’s Missionary Society. After the usual programme of studies he was ordained priest in St Mary’s Church, Killamoat on Easter Sunday of 1963. The ordaining prelate was Most Rev Patrick Cleary SSC, Exiled Bishop of Nancheng, China.
After ordination Tommy was appointed to the newly created Prefecture of Minna in Nigeria, West Africa. The territory had been entrusted to the Society the previous year and it was the size of the island of Ireland. At the time there were only three parishes in the Prefecture and Tommy was sent to Gawu to work with Jerry Kiely.
In 1964 he was transferred to Kafinkoro where he supervised the building of a house for the Alexian Brothers who were to come to the Prefecture in 1965.
In 1966 Tommy was transferred to Minna town and was attached to the Cathedral. He was already showing a talent for building. He claimed that he picked up a lot about building while a student in Kiltegan as he accompanied the construction of St Patrick’s College.
He was sent to do a course in electrical engineering in Belfast in 1968 and returned to Minna in 1970. He opened a Technical School in Kontagora and taught there for six years while also helping out in the local parish.
In 1980 he went to work in Nanati and shortly afterwards he was appointed Administrator of St Michael’s Cathedral, Minna. While in Minna he supervised the building of the new presbytery at St Michael’s.
Tommy was appointed the Regional Superior for West Africa after the 1984 Chapter and he lived at the Society House at Mende Road in Lagos. He was elected Vicar General of the Society at the 1990 Chapter and served a six year term.
On the completion of his term as Vicar General he was appointed to the Region of East Africa. At 59 years of age Tommy set out on a new missionary journey. He worked in the Diocese of Lodwar and spent some years in charge of the Pastoral Centre at Katilu.
In 2002 Tommy was called once again to be a Regional Superior; this time he was elected Regional Superior for East Africa. He was based in Nairobi.
When he finished in this post Tommy went to work in the Diocese of Torit in South Sudan and ministered at Narus. Later he worked at the Society Formation House in Nakuru and his last appointment was to the Society Prayer House in Lanet, Nakuru.
In October 2020 he returned to Ireland and was based at St Patrick’s, Knock, Co Mayo.
Tommy was an extremely dedicated and hard-working missionary priest who spent fifty-seven years of active ministry in Africa. He made an immense contribution to the development of the Church in Minna. He was a gifted builder and was generous in sharing his many talents. He was very highly respected by his colleagues and this was shown in particular by the fact that he was elected Regional Superior of the two biggest Society Regions in Africa.
The mission of the Society was the focus of his life right up to the end. He was a very versatile missionary who was always prepared to move to where the need was greatest. He lived a very simple life and never worried about material comforts.