Parish priest’s sudden passing stuns parishioners

May 13, 2013

Parishioners in Whitecross have been left saddened and stunned by the sudden death of their beloved parish priest, Fr Michael Rogers.

The gregarious 63 year old cleric, who was described as “a friend to everyone” by members of the loyal congregation he had served over the last eleven years, is understood to have been found dead in bed at his mother’s home in Banbridge last Monday morning.

According to parishioners, Fr. Rogers devoted all his time to the four churches of Loughgilly parish for which he was solely responsible, often celebrating morning Mass in one church and evening Mass at another. The extremely active parish priest was also Chairman of the Board of Governors at all four schools in in the area and was a part time carer to his elderly mother, Patricia.  Fr Rogers was also in great demand to carry out weddings and christenings throughout the parish.

Friends, relatives and parishioners gathered on Wednesday evening to hold an all-night vigil in honour of the much loved priest before his funeral cortege departed the following morning, led by a lone piper along the route from Belleek to Tullyherron, which was lined with black flags.

Hundreds gathered for Requiem Mass at St. Teresa’s Church in Tullyherron for what one mourner described as a “tremendous send off, the like of which has never been seen in this area before.”

His coffin was flanked by a guard of honour formed by Whitecross GFC from the Parochial House on Priestbush Road to the church, where a huge crowd had gathered including parishioners from Fr Rogers’s former parishes of Stewartstown and Forkhill. Following a moving funeral Mass, he was taken to his final resting place in St.Patrick’s Cemetery in Banbridge.

As a mark of the high esteem in which Fr. Rogers was held, Cardinal Sean Brady honoured him by celebrating evening Mass in Ballymoyer on Saturday night, where he thanked the congregation for their response to the sudden passing of their parish priest and the love and respect they had shown him both before and after his death.

Fr. Rogers was an only child who is survived by his elderly mother, Patricia.

After being ordained into the missionary Rosminian Order in Poyntzpass thirty years ago, the devoted priest ministered in Africa for several years before returning to Northern Ireland where he served in Forkhill and Stewartstown before being transferred to Whitecross in 2002.

He will be sorely missed by his parishioners, both past and present, and by all who knew and loved him.