The death has occurred of Fr. Willie Stack, (75) St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow and formerly of Doon, Tralee, Co. Kerry; Calabar, Nigeria; Galway; Castleisland; Grenada; West Indies and Cork.
June 20, 2019, peacefully in the Care Unit at St Patrick’s, Kiltegan.
Predeceased by his sister Joan and by his brother John Brendan; sadly missed by his sisters Margaret Dillon, Lyreacrompane, Co Kerry; Sr Noreen RSM in Cork; by his brother Thomas in Doon; his sisters-in-law, brother-in-law, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, his relatives and friends and by his Society family in Kiltegan.
The following is a report I did for The Kerryman in July 2001 on the occasion of the departure of Fr. Stack. This was after a near decade long stay in Castleisland during which he won many friends for his easy going manner.
Long Week of Farewells as Fr. Willie Stack Departs
It was a long week of goodbyes for Fr. Willie Stack the popular curate who has served here for most of the past decade.
Apart from casual meetings and farewells on the street, in the course of his travels, there were two organised events where he officiated during his last few days in the area.
Huge Turnout at Mass
Fr. Stack flew out to America earlier this week to meet with the heads of his mission and preferred to talk about future plans after this meeting when he returns in September before leaving to take up his foreign posting.
There was a huge turnout at the mass on Thursday evening at the grotto in St. Stephen’s Park here in town.
Shrine Built in 1996
Fr. Stack was instrumental in getting the shrine built back in 1996 and many of his fellow workers on the project were in attendance.
At the end of the mass he praised the enthusiasm of the residents of the estate who were involved in the construction of the grotto and he singled out stone mason Johnny Foran for his workmanship and Michael Reidy who painted the figure of Our Lady.
On behalf of the residents, Sheila Martin thanked Fr. Stack for being the driving force behind the restoration of St. Stephen’s Graveyard and the provision of the grotto in the estate.
“The grotto was his project and the end result was due to his tireless effort and determination. We hope to keep it in perfect condition in his absence as a tribute to his hard work,” said Mrs. Martin.
Held in High Esteem
“He will be sorely missed and we hope he will visit us anytime he returns. Castleisland Parish has benefited from his brief stay amongst us and we will always hold him in the highest esteem. We would also like to thank everyone involved in any way in preparing the grotto and the park for this mass. Any project cannot be successful without the input of the children who were always at hand when needed ,” she concluded.
Mrs. Martin then presented Fr. Stack with an envelope which he assured her would be put to good use in the course of his missionary work.
Love and Support
Fr. Stack wished everyone well and thanked them for the love and support he felt during his stay here.
Before he could get much further, Michael O’Callaghan caught the microphone and launched into a rousing verse of He’s a Jolly Good Fella and he was well supported by the congregation on the beautiful, sunny evening.
Cordal on Friday Evening
Mainly attached to Cordal, Fr. Stack travelled the few miles east on Friday evening where another multitude of parishioners awaited at the church and went with him afterwards to the community centre where there were presentations and more goodbyes.
Maura Walsh’s Memories
Cordal resident, Maura Walsh put the following montage of memories together for the purpose of this article.
Every household in Cordal was well represented at the 8pm mass on Friday evening last to join with Fr. Martin Spillane and Fr. Willie Stack in his last official duty in Cordal. Afterwards all went to the community centre where a buffet had been prepared by the organisations in the parish led by the ICA.
Respected by All
Presentations were made to Fr. Stack on behalf of the parents of Kilmurry School Parents Council and another on behalf of the people of Cordal.
In the seven years Fr. Stack served here he gained the respect and affection of everyone from the very young to the very old.
Many who attended the Kilmurry School annual Christmas Mass marvelled at his ability to engage the children in a very meaningful way in their special mass – by speaking directly to them and having them respond with enthusiasm.
In a similar way at the Senior Citizens’ mass at the community centre, which is organised by the ICA, Fr. Stack could bring new meaning to the Sacrament for these seasoned mass goers.
Of course they all knew him personally from his monthly home visits.
Indeed these visits were often more frequent to those whom he felt needed that bit extra.
Acknowledgement of Service
He con-celebrated the Senior Citizens’ Mass with retired priests in the parish, giving them the lead role and gently guiding the ceremony.
In this way he acknowledged their lifetime of service to God and showed us how to look beyond the frailty of the human body see the strength of the soul.
Any of us who had to endure a stay in hospital, or indeed had a close relative there, know and appreciate the visits of Fr. Stack during these often difficult times.
Ordinary Rural Lives
Fr. Willie will also be remembered for his ability to relate the Gospels to the ordinary lives of rural people. For example, on Palm Sunday re-enacting the Lord’s visit to Jerusalem by mounting a donkey outside the church. For those of us arriving at the last minute and seeing the donkey tied at the gate and the palm branches all around focused our minds for the long Gospels of that day.
Message of Salvation
During the Easter ceremonies he made a special effort to involve the teenagers and young adults of the parish as well as the younger children. He used vivid imagery erecting a cross with the crown of thorns, thirty silver coins and of course the stone tomb and graves in front of the alter to make clear and real for us the message of salvation.
Fr. Stack will be remembered fondly for all of these things and also for his humility and self-sacrifice.
For many his memory will stay with us every time we hear or say the prayer to Michael the Arc Angel which he introduced to the parish as a standard prayer recited at the end of each mass. May the Lord continue to bless his ministry where ever he serves Him.
May God be Good to him.
Reposing in Our Lady and St. Brendan’s Church, Tralee, on this Friday from 4pm to 7pm with Mass at 4pm. Reposing at St. Patrick’s, Kiltegan, on Saturday from 3pm to 5pm, with removal to St. Patrick’s Chapel at 5.30pm.
Funeral Mass on Sunday at 12 noon followed by burial in the Society Cemetery.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
Date Published: Thursday 20th June 2019. Date of Death: Thursday 20th June 2019.
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