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Rev Michael McCarthy RIP

19th July 2018

Rev Michael McCarthy RIP

Fr Michael McCarthy died at St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds on the evening of 10th July 2018 after several months of ill health. He was seventy-two years of age.


Born in West Cork, Ireland on 12th August 1945 he studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Carlow and was ordained at the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow on 7th June 1969.


Three months later he arrived in the Leeds diocese to take up his first appointment, as Assistant Priest in St Malachy’s parish, Halifax. In 1973 he moved to St Clare’s, Bradford where he remained until 1982 when Bishop Wheeler appointed him to St Mary’s, Selby. From 1985-87 Fr McCarthy was on the staff of St Mary’s, Bradford.


In the 1987-88 academic year he undertook further studies in the USA, and lived in Chicago. On his return to the Diocese he joined the staff of Ushaw College in County Durham as Spiritual Director. He once remarked that giving spiritual direction at Ushaw and elsewhere had been the “the most enriching and privileged” part of his priesthood.


Fr McCarthy left Ushaw in 1997 and Bishop Konstant appointed him as Parish Priest of St Joseph the Worker at Sherburn-in-Elmet, along with responsibility for the church and parish of the Immaculate Conception at Scarthingwell. He was still in this post at the time of his death and he was a much loved pastor to both the Sherburn and Scarthingwell communities, as well as the Catholic primary school at Barkston Ash.


Alongside his ministry in the Leeds diocese and at Ushaw, over the years Fr McCarthy established an international reputation as an award winning  poet and author of children’s religious books. His book about the story of Noah’s Ark has been translated into seventeen different languages. His first book of poems, “Birds’ Nests and Other Poems” was published in 1995 and won the Patrick Kavanagh Prize. Another collection, “At the Races”, appeared in 2009, to critical acclaim.


In 2015 he produced a volume entitled “The Healing Station”, which is a collection of poetry arising out of a period he spent as Writer-in-Residence at a Dublin hospital. Bishop Marcus Stock described it as giving a “profound expression to the experiences of dementia patients and their carers through poetic narrative”. The insights he gained from this experience also led to Fr McCarthy’s involvement with the “Growing Old Grace-fully” project on his return to the Diocese.


He spent the autumn term of 2017 in Ireland as Poet-in-Residence at his alma mater, at the invitation of the President of Carlow College.


Fr Michael McCarthy will long be remembered as the priest-poet, as a man of deep spirituality and as a caring pastor who, in various capacities, gave almost fifty years of devoted service to the Diocese of Leeds.


Funeral arrangements for Fr Michael McCarthy are as follows:


Reception of the body and Mass on Wednesday 18th July 7pm at the church of the Immaculate Conception and St John of Beverley, Scarthingwell LS24 9PH.


Requiem Mass on Thursday 19th July 11am at the church of St Joseph the Worker, Sherburn in Elmet, LS25 6HZ.


His body will be brought back to Ireland for a Requiem Mass at the Church of the Holy Family, Caheragh, followed by burial at Drimoleague new cemetery.


May He Rest In Peace.


At Fr Michael's funeral, Mgr Donal Lucey gave a most moving Homily which is reproduced in full here: