Father Tom

Father Tom Heneghan, parish priest of Corpus Christi church, died yesterday morning of a suspected heart attack. He was a much-loved community figure and, here on the Blog, one of his parishioners Cllr Rachel Heywood remembers him

brixton_hill_corpusxti
Corpus Christi Church

Father Tom Heneghan, Parish Priest of Corpus Christi on Brixton Hill, who died suddenly of a suspected heart attack yesterday morning aged 63, was an extraordinary and rare man who radiated goodness and humanity. He had a powerful commitment to the social justice teachings of the Church and always ensured that it was attuned and responsive to the needs of the wider community through his work with young people, London Citizens  and many others. Along with great flocks of parishioners, I loved Father Tom and I joined them in his non-judgemental church on most Sundays to benefit from his kindness, his wisdom and his gentle shepherding.

Last Saturday Father Tom and I made a regular visit to the family of Junior Nkwele, the young man who was murdered on the Loughborough Estate a few months ago. On the way, walking through Brixton, we talked about Ireland and books and politics and schools and a dozen other things. Then I watched Father Tom with Junior’s mother as he wrought a small miracle in bringing comfort, hope and a fleeting smile  to a woman who had just buried her eldest son, and who has great fears for her others. He found answers for many of her practical worries, and assuaged her spiritual ones.

Father Tom’s death will leave a big gap in the complex and multiple communities of Brixton, many of whom gathered together in the very special place of worship, of refuge, and of community which he created. Children, teachers and parents were hugely distressed as Corpus Christi school closed yesterday afternoon. I will greatly miss his guidance and encouragement.

But we mustn’t forget that Father Tom has left an unshakeable legacy of generous spirituality which should long outlive him. I wish that he was still here, but i also trust that he will now rest in peace and stay in our thoughts and our prayers.

[UPDATED: 10/03/13 to remove first paragraph at request of Cllr Heywood – see comments below]

71 COMMENTS

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  7. Saddened to happen here upon the passing of Fr Tom, my late mother’s friend and parish priest in Stockwell and Brixton, a gentleman and gentle man who quietly and unassumingly showed real understanding and great personal kindness, even over and above the call of duty. His unconditional acceptance and warm welcome towards those of us outside his congregation were always appreciated. I also have some particular and personal memories of Fr Tom that are amongst those I treasure most and recall often, especially when I need reassurance that human goodness and selflessness really do exist. R.I.P.

  8. Fr. TOM HENEGHAN IS LAID TO REST
    The death took suddenly of Fr. Tommy Heneghan, P.P. Corpus Christie, Brixton, London. Fr Tommy was a native of Cloonflynn and the Ballyglass/Mayo Abbey communities came out in force when Tommy’s remains returned to his native place. It was a bitterly cold and windy evening as the guard of honour of Ballyglass Community Council and Mayo Gaels football club walked the mile to the top of the hill with his remains as they travelled from the community centre to his home. Concelebrated Mass in Mayo Abbey church was celebrated by local and visiting priests led by chief concelebrant, Bishop Patrick Lynch, diocese of Southwark. Sympathy is extended to his brother, Pake (Cloonflynn), Sadie Keane (Penogue), Noreen Longworth, (Castlelucas). Christina Brohan, (Belcarra), Mary Lavelle (Navan), Kathleen Keane (London). May he be Eternally Rewarded for His Work.

    • FrTom (he always insisted we didn’t need to call him Fr, but it was what we were used to calling him) would have been very proud of the send off. It is great to see to see that the community spirit is very strong in Ballyglass and Mayo Abbey!!! We miss Fr Tom very much, but we know he is watching over us!!

  9. Dear Fr Tom – thank you for being there in our darkest hour and pulling us through. Love and miss you forever xxx

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  11. So sad to have just heard the news. Father Tom was a true glow of warmth in the community that he built. I miss you so much. Rest in peace.

  12. Still in shock and great sadness over this news. Thank you for everything Fr Tom, you will not be forgotten, not least by the many people whose lives you so clearly touched.

  13. Fr Tom was the best and is very sad see him gone
    He was a father to everyone and he will be greatly miss.
    I remember when we were doing our RCIA meetings last year He was always
    there and encouraging us all the time
    May he RIP

  14. Fr Tom Heneghan (RIP)

    Such sad news to read of Fr Tom’s sudden passing. I have fond memories of seminary days at St John’s College, Waterford in the late sixties. I didn’t finish there but well remember Tommy as a good footballer and a good player on the guitar and can recall his singing voice with Irish ballads, being his particular forte. Last met him in 1976 when he was at Southwark Cathedral and I was newly arrived to work in London. Love the many comments and tributes on this site and hope that his family will take some comfort from knowing the good priest he was and how well he was loved and regarded.

    Colm Sullivan (Liverpool)

  15. Tom, dear cousin, you were always so patient, kind, caring and selfless. Thank you for everything you have done for me over the years. Always a hero in my eyes. Forever in our hearts and will miss you always. Rest in peace Tom. XXX

    • My deepest and most sincere sympathy to all of Fr Tom’s family.

      In iothlann De go gcastar sinn. Solas siorrai ar a anam dilis.

  16. Absolutely stunned to hear of Father Tom’s death. He was a great man who will always have a place in our hearts. He was just a snapper when he married us in 1977 and looked exactly the same, if a tad greyer, at our silver wedding celebration. Never, ever heard a bad word against him. RIP Tom boy.

  17. FAther Tom was a very special person in myself and my childrens life he baptized five of the seven and fist communion with seven of them. He will be sadly missed by everyone in my household but never forgotten
    May he rest in perfect peace

  18. It was always great going to see Tom and to help him out on occasions both in St Francis de Sales in Stockwell and in Corpus Christi, Brixton Hill. He was always welcoming and caring. His vision of Church was marked by humour and humility, openness, and generosity. He is at Home this Easter with the Lord he served. He will be missed terribly. Rest in Peace Tom.

  19. I know how highly thought of ,and loved Father Tom was by the Brixton and Stockwell communities (he loved you all too! ) secular and non secular. Devastated by his death, but proud to say he was my uncle.

    • Thank you for speaking at mass yesterday (If you are the same nephew (I know he had a big family) – your words were much appreciated. So sorry for your loss.

  20. I am still in disbelieve considering that last Sunday’s Mass (03/03 at 12pm) was my birthday. At the end of Mass, I finally remembered to bring my rosary I needed blessing to put in my car. As Father Tom blessed my rosary, I told him it was my birthday, he gave me the warmest smile, wished me happy birthday and he patted me on my shoulder as he tired to guess my age (he did well shaving off a several years). I will never ever forget that. Rest beautifully in His arms, until we meet again.

  21. So sad to hear Father Tom has passed away RIP, he was our priest for many years at St Francis de Sales Church and came to our new parish in Sutton to marry us. A very kind and great man who to this day influenced greatly of how we live and raise our two children. You will always be in our thoughts and prayers.

  22. Its with great sadness that we learned of the death of our dear friend and former neighbour Fr.Tom.
    May he rest in peace, always fondly remembered Mike & Peggy Jordan.
    Dia dò.

  23. Me and my brother are very sad about what happened to our beloved Priest. My brother cried a lot but i told him to be strong as possible, not to cry because then Father Tom will feel sad just like my brother. But now he is in a better place may he Rest In Peace.
    Gabriella Almeida: LA RETRAITE
    Rodrigo Almeida: WYVIL
    and love from my friends and family.

  24. Dear Father Tom, you have left us so suddenly, so soon!
    I will never forget the support you gave me in my days of need, during my
    husband’s long-illness and passing.
    I can’t keep the tears back
    I will forever carry love and gratitude in my heart in your name
    I have wondered so many times
    How you manage to deal with so many of us with the same smile and attention
    You were truly a SPECIAL person, A GIFT FROM GOD to all you meet
    I just hope you did realise how much you were loved
    Rest In Perfect Peace Shepherd and father.

  25. We only learned of Father Tom’s sudden death on Thursday evening which we are still trying to come to terms with .. He was a wonderful Priest and a caring human being he was always very kind to my Husband Jerry and knew he was not a Christian but still had a great welcome for him when he came to Church with me, he was always concerned about his health as my husband is suffering from Parkinson’s disease..
    Father Tom rest in peace.

  26. Father Tom, words fail me but am assured of the fact that your in a better place. May you rest in Perfect Peace!
    Thank you for being such a tremendous leader, We will always miss you!

  27. Fr Tom wasn’t just our priest but also a dear friend, he enjoyed a chat and banter as we exchanged Mayo newspapers every Sunday, he will live on in our hearts forever.
    RIP to a lovely man.

  28. Fr Tom, a fantastic uncle and an all around good man. You will be sorely missed by all your family, both here in Ireland and the U.K and i’m sure by your parishioners and by everyone who came into contact with you. Rest in peace xxx

  29. Dear Mr Naughton – I beg of you please remove you comment before it starts a row. None of the others felt the need to comment on Cllr Heywood’s opening paragraph. I’m sure some of them disagree with her but chose to concentrate on honouring our beloved Father Tom rather than registering their disapproval. Please, I beg you, do the same.

    • In response to Mr Naughton – I am sorry if my comments have upset you. That was not my intention. I wrote these words about Fr Tom at the request of the Brixton Blog just an hour or so after I had heard of his death and was, and am, deeply upset. Perhaps I didn’t think as clearly as I might have in other circumstances. The truth is that Fr Tom (unwittingly) rebuilt my faith in a church which had failed me badly, albeit in a very different way from that set out in my piece through his humanity and goodness. I suppose that was in my mind when I was writing, along with the difficulty of explaining why the Church is so important and of such value when the general public’s view is drawn from the media. I am sure that Fr Tom would have forgiven me for my fallibility. Nonetheless I will ask the Brixton Blog to remove the first para of my piece. Rachel Heywood

  30. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

    With a heavy heart dear Cllr Heywood, I must tell you that to preface your otherwise warm and I’m sure heartfelt tribute to Father Tom with an airing of your own hostility to a teaching of the Church is poorly timed and undignified. The memory of a priest so recently departed and no longer here to speak for himself should not be invoked to bolster opposition to the Church’s stance on marriage, the stance maintained since its foundation by the Catholic Church; the Church that Father Tom served so faithfully.
    God bless
    Sean Naughton

  31. It is with the very deepest sorrow for me to have learned about Fr Tom’s untimely death! I still haven’t got over the shock of it. I was among the last 5 people to receive holy communion from him at last Sunday’s evening mass. Little did I know it was his goodbye to me. I’ll probably cherish that moment for the rest of my life because Father Tom (may God give him ETERNAL peace) welcomed my family to his parish and church about 7 years ago with open arms. We’ve always felt his unwavering love ever since. He was a true father of our community and we’ll always remember him fondly in our prayers. May the good Lord rest his soul in Eternal peace.

  32. a relative of mine told me to look up brixtonblog about Tom. My sense of loss and grief have just increased 100fold. He was my closest best priest-friend. We met in our mid 20’s as young priests in S London, and those beautiful comments and tributes ‘say it all’. St Francis said ‘preach about the love of God all the time, and use words if you must.’ What a glorious sermon our wonderful friend has preached with an honourable& Christian life so well lived. He and I spent his last full day among us in Wisley on the first and only
    beautiful day of a dull season: A glorious & heartbreaking memory.
    We used to play squash every week and hammer the dickens out of each other – decades ago! and each enjoy defeating the other. I’ve no doubt he’ll work up one of those browneyed grins as he knows I’m sufferng as I get ‘the words’ ready for his Requiem Mass. May God take him to His heart as Tom did for so very many of us.

  33. To Allah we belong and to Him shall we all return. Just heard about the untimely death of Father Tom and am ddeply shocked.

    Father Tom was a very important committee member of Lambeth Multi-Faith Action Group (LAMAG). We held our committee meeting on regular basis at his residence. He always made us welcome and with excellent hospitality.

    Father Tom will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his family. May Allah the Almighty grant them and the whole community strength and patience to bear his untimely death. Amen.

  34. RIP father Tom cant believe u ave been taken away from us so soon
    you was a truly kind and understanding man
    You was the only priest that would baptised my children
    Due to being a truely understandable man . You are going
    To be sadly missed but never forgotten
    After all ur caring to everyone it is now ur turn to be cared fir in heaven
    God bless

  35. Thank you Rachel for your eloquent and moving tribute to Fr Tom. He was such a good man.
    It is deeply appreciated.
    John, Yasmin and Maeve Fitzpatrick

  36. Father Tom was a true people’s champion. An amazing man, always there to help, officiating at my late father ‘s funeral over 20 years ago, christening us all, marrying me. Then most recently supporting us once again to organise my dear brother Richard ‘s funeral.going above and beyond his role to support us with our grief. The heavens are blessed to have him. May he rest in eternal peace. Our condolences to those he leaved behind.
    All members of the Gooden family.

  37. This is a beautiful and touching tribute. Fr Tom will be greatly missed by our family. I Had the pleasure of know him since he came to Brixton Hill. He has been a great support during difficult times and has left a gaping hole in our Hearts and the wider Community. Rest in Peace you Dear man. xx

  38. We have been lucky to have such a gentle, warm and open-hearted pastor as the face of the church in Brixton. Father Tom leaves behind him an echo of humility, tenderness and compassion. He showed us how beautiful and inviting the church could be even in these difficult and divisive times. He will not easily be forgotten. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.

  39. Thankyou Rachel for yuor piece it sums up the spirit of Father Tom and how many of us feel. He was a wonderful man.

  40. Thank you for the tribute which expressed how we all feel. Father Tom took care of me & my family when my father Tony Delahunty was diagnosed with cancer in 1997. Without his support I do not know how I would have coped. We became friends, & he was always there for me in time of need. He was wise, clever, funny & warm, but so modest about his many achievements. He made a lasting difference to my life & I, like hundreds of others, will miss him so much. Rest in peace dear Tom, I hope you are with my dear Daddy now in Heaven.

  41. “…………Fr Tom asked Jesus when did I welcome you away from home or …. When did I visit you when you were ill or in person? The King answered I assure you Fr. Tom , as often as you did it for one of least brothers and sisters, you did it for me.” Mt 25: 38

    Thank you Fr Tom from all Eritrean comminity in Southwark whom you have served over the years.

  42. Such sad news. A wonderful man who will be dearly missed. He was one of the good ones. We are honoured to have known him, to have been prepared for marriage by him and for him to have Christened our daughters Georgie and Molly. Rest in peace.

  43. For one of the Jesuits who lived in the parish before him, it was a joy to meet him occasionally and to become aware from others of the generosity of spirit be brought to all his relationships. May he rest in peace.

  44. As a ten-year resident of the parish, and one of the Jesuits who were there before him, it was a a joy to become aware of the great gifts and generosity of spirit he brought to the parish and to all his relationships. May he rest in peace

  45. A huge gaping sinkhole in my life and the entire community have lost a true peoples champion.

  46. Rest In Peace Father Tom. You were an inspiration and guiding light to so many. You will live on in the hearts of your community.

  47. I am deeply shocked and saddened to learn of Fr. Tom’s death (RIP). He was my class-mate from St. John’s College, Waterford, Class of 1973. I spent a week in his house last December, as a lodger on a few days break, enjoying a re-union, while also visiting the city. We had a great week as his guests, in his very open, welcoming house and community. I was very much struck by his style of pastoring and deep involvement and care for his parish. It was inspirational to spend time in his company. We spent hours at his table, remembering and sharing, analysing and comparing experiences of church; enjoying the company of other members of his household – his co-workers and friends. I am so glad of that visit now. I offer my deepest sympathies to his family, his faith community, his many friends. May the seeds he has sown so well in his dedicated ministry bear much fruit for many years to come. May he rest in Peace.
    Fr. Pat Fitzgerald.

  48. My children attend Corpus Christi School and the reaction of staff, parents and children to the news that Fr Tom had passed away so suddenly is true testament to the way in which we all loved him. May he rest in peace.

  49. A beautiful piece that really sums up what so many of us are feeling. Thank you. He was such a warm and lovely man, and a priest with humility and compassion. One of the few I’ve met who seemed to understand the struggles people have to deal with, and how difficult it can be to accept the church’s teachings at times. Whatever path he chose in life, he would have had people gravitating to him. So desperately sad that he’s gone, but his light will shine on in Brixton.

  50. I am so saddened about the news of Fr. Tom’s passing away. He was a great mentor to me in Stockwel’s St. Francis de Sales. He significantly contributed to how I consider myself to be a priest. We lost a genuine good man, but he lives on in Christ in all of our hearts!

  51. That is a beautiful tribute indeed. He will truly be missed. He was one of the good guys.

  52. I heard the sad news last night and could not believe it. I phoned the priest’s house and was told the devastating news! I and my whole family are in shock. We saw Fr Tom on Sunday after the 10.30 am mass, we had a brief chat, little did I know that would be the last time…. Fr Tom was a gentle soul and always had a smile for everyone. My kids liked him very much, and he was to officiate my sons 1st Holy Communion in May (it will not be the same). My boys were very upset when I told them the upsetting news last night, harder for them to understand at that age.

    The Lord has called his humble servant home! May his soul rest in eternal peace! Corpus Christi Parish will truly miss you!

  53. Rest in peace Father Tom. You were a great support to s as a family when we suffered loss of my nan, grandie & aunt. You held the funerals for them all.You will be missed by so many.Rest in peace.

  54. ‘his non judgemental church’ is so right.. he was a sweetheart, it’s awfully sad.. he baptised our little boy and was tolerant of and tickled by our odd and non secular readings in amongst a beautiful traditional ceremony. we’ll all miss him x

  55. Thank you for this tribute – you have put my feelings into the words I couldn’t hope to have found so thank you – he was one in a million.

    I hope you don’t mind but I am going to share this with my friends and family.
    x

  56. Very sad to hear this news. I only met him a couple of times personally. But he left the impresssion of being a proper priest, and he was extremely kind and helpful when I lost my father-in-law recently.

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