The sad news of the recent death of the Indian Priest Fr. Pius Baraik at the age of 68 has come as a great shock to all those who got to know him during his visits to Castleisland over the past 17 years.
In the course of his regular visits to the Castleisland area and he struck up a great friendship locally with Tom Horan and Jimmy Shanahan in particular.
Tom Horan described the ‘saintly man’ he first met in the late 1990s and the work he undertook and completed in his remote parish in the North East of India.
Lourdes in 1999
“I met him in Lourdes in 1999. He spoke movingly of the impoverished conditions of his locality in India. He talked about raising funds to build a church for his parish there,” said Mr. Horan in reaction to the news of the passing of his friend.
“I invited him to Castleisland the following year and he stayed a week with my family. At Sunday mass here he made an appeal for his fundraising activities. The parish of Castleisland and surrounding areas responded generously.
“People who met him were struck by his humility and serenity. He made new friends who supported him continuously over the years. After three years staying with us, Jimmy Shanahan offered to accommodate him in his home.
“As an experienced driver, Jimmy took Fr. Pius around the country to Cork, Limerick, Donegal, Fermanagh and Monaghan – to meet people he had met during his trips to Lourdes.
“They were very generous to him and he won the hearts of the people he met everywhere. Along the way, one particular benefactor gave a large sum of money to help him build a school. This now helps to educate over 700 students of all religions in his Fr. Baraik’s own parish.
“It was while attending a prayer meeting in Newmarket, Co. Cork, at the home of Pat Buckley, that Fr. Pius was invited by the Buckleys to stay with them on his next visit to Ireland. He took them up on their kind offer and had been staying with them since.
Friends in Castleisland
“Though staying in Newmarket on his most recent visits to Ireland, Fr. Pius never forgot his friends in Castleisland and always fitted in a short stay here.
“A few years ago Fr. Baraik invited people from the areas he visited in Ireland to come and see his parish in India. Mr. Buckley, his wife and a friend took up the offer and stayed with him in his presbytery in North East India over Christmas 2012.
“They were so happy to see at first hand the wonderful work being done in this remote and impoverished place with the funds he had been raising in Ireland.
“They saw a beautiful church, a school, a convent for his nuns and a parochial house where priests from other parishes came to do retreats.
A Vast Population
“This was Fr. Baraik’s crowning achievement as part of his ministry over the years. All this from a man coming from a country with such a vast population of which only two percent of whom are Catholic. He came to Lourdes so many years ago to give the sacrament of reconciliation to people whom he met there and left with so many friends from different parts of the world.
“He has been described to me by people who met him as a ‘saintly man’ and I have always believed he is.
“His many Irish supporters over here wish to send their sincere condolences on the great loss of Fr. Pius to his family, friends and parishioners. May he rest in peace,” concluded Mr. Horan.
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