It has been said, though not written, that on Feb. 8, 1944 Patrick and Mary (Fallon) Killilea found me at the end of a rainbow. Subsequently I grew up on my family’s small farm in North East Galway. I attended Killian National School and played Gaelic football for my parish of Newbridge. After finishing primary school, I attended St. Joseph’s College secondary school and played rugby and Gaelic football for my school. I got quite a kick out of both.
During the Easter vacation of my senior year, a Sacred Hearts priest from my home parish came by my home and convinced me to enter the novitiate of the Sacred Hearts in Cootehill, County Cavan. A year later, on August 22 of 1963, I took first vows as a Brother of the Sacred Hearts. Then on Sept. 13, 1963 my fellow novices and I boarded a British Overseas airplane bound for Boston’s Logan Airport. The next morning we arrived at Queen of Peace seminary at the base of Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, N.H., where we studied and shoveled snow for the next six years. During those six years I did not get to speak with my parents or any of my family since my family, as of yet, did not have a phone. So my American cousins were my contact with the outside world. After completing six years of philosophy and theology, my Irish classmates and I flew home to Ireland on an Aer Lingus jet and shortly thereafter were ordained to the priesthood on May 25, 1969, the Feast of Pentecost.
Most of my priestly ministry was spent in Southeastern Massachusetts in parish life in the Diocese of Fall River. I did spend a year in an all-boys school overlooking Galway Bay and three years in our mission in the Bahamas where it is said, “Everything is better in the Bahamas.” Some of us are still trying to figure that out!
Then on June 29, 2012 I landed in Kalaupapa, the Hansen’s Disease settlement where St. Damien gave his life for the unfortunate victims of this dread disease.
Even as the notorious Russian balloon hovered over the central USA, my thoughts “hovered” over my years in religious life. I thank the Lord for calling me to membership and ministry as a Brother of the Sacred Hearts.
I am not usually given to flowery words or expressions. So I simply thank the Lord for calling me to religious life and I thank all those who have enabled me to live my life happily as a Brother of the Sacred Hearts.
Anchor columnist, Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.