Canon Patrick Marron’s ministry spans both time and experience, childhood and adulthood, lay and religious, carefree life and stressful life. However, given his time back, he says he would do it all over again.
“I love my ministry. I found it very challenging, and I regretted that I wasn’t a better priest. I’ve regretted that many a time; that I possibly could have done more. Now, I’ll leave that to others to decide but that’s my conviction. That I would love to be able to do far more for people. People in general are very appreciative and never forget,” he tells The Irish Catholic.
The Monaghan native was born in Carrickmacross in 1932, and from the very beginning he seemed destined for the priesthood. His father owning both a garage and taxis, an unusual link to the priests of the parish was provided.
“My father, not only had he a garage, but he had taxis. He drove the parish priests. The priests were always around our house. He had a garage and all the priests used to come there. I suppose, I used to dress up as a priest and say Mass – well, pretend to be saying Mass,” he laughs.
“I suppose it was that, in the sense that they were always around. My father used to drive them everywhere. Neither of them (the priests) could drive and he was their right-hand man for years.”
The warmth of childhood familiarity compelled Fr Marron on through school to his future vocation. However, the warmth he felt towards his vocation was not limited to the priesthood, but also to his career as a teacher as well.
Reading a letter of commendation from the principal he worked under for so many years, he says:
“I have known Fr Marron for 25 years, and for 20 years he has been a colleague in the staff of St Michael’s. A founder member of the school, he has made such a contribution that it will be impossible to sum up over the 20 years. He is an extremely competent and dedicated teacher. He maintains an apparently effortless discipline and good relationship with his pupils and is highly respected by them. Scarcely any of his pupils ever fail a public examination. In fact, year after year, the results obtained by his pupils – even by those of limited intellectual ability – could only be described as outstanding.”
Nostalgia is heavily present in his voice as he tells me, “I loved teaching – loved it.”
An amicable man, Fr Marron got on not only with his students, but with the contentious communities along the border to which he was sent afterwards.
Having spent much time ministering in the north, he says, “There was an MLA on to me there before you came on and he described me as a ‘community man’, I got involved in everything, Catholic and protestant.”
Stationed in Fintona parish for 32 years and still there now, he reflects on this, “I got on well with all sizes of the people. I was in the PACE which was the Protestant and Catholic Encounter. But the thing that bugged me most was the discrimination – it was horrible. You couldn’t really describe it in any way other than unfairness, injustice.”
The antidote to this, in his view, is the Faith. The most rewarding experience of his life has been seeing young men pass into the fraternity of priesthood. Asked about the best memories his life has left him with, he said with joy in his voice:
“Ah, vocations to the priesthood…I decided we’d have a priesthood exhibition. That we’d go around different orders and different schools and different dioceses and ask priests – there was a committee of four or five – I was with them and they got postcards and little excerpts from the different colleges of what the priests did and so on, and we had an exhibition for one week. There’s no point in describing the exhibition, but three of those lads who were involved in the setting up, this is a memorable thing, of the exhibition – three of those are now priests in the dioceses.”
He’s keen to point out the difficulties involved in the priest’s role, though.
“It wasn’t always easy. Priesthood is a difficult calling. It’s not a soft job, but it is a calling, it is a vocation.
“You have the difficult situations, but you have the grace to come through it,” he says.
Asked what advice he’d pass on to young priests or young men considering religious life, he said, “I would tell them that it is a very rewarding life, as well as being a difficult life. Great satisfaction in not only spreading the Gospel, ‘go teach all nations’, but the graces to know that the sufferings of this life are not to be compared to the life to come.”
Fr Marron is well aware of these graces, with pandemic life proving difficult for him, especially of late. Following a fall and a stint in the hospital, he reflected, “When I was in hospital, I was saying to myself, ‘You may have had a physical sickness, but that definitely was impeding on your mental health.’ You’ve no one to visit you except – you’re only allowed one member of a family once a week for one hour. That was very sore.”
“You’d look up at the ceiling to see would you see flies. You couldn’t see them, and you’d look out the window and you couldn’t see birds flying around. All you could hear were voices and the trolley going up and down, and you were glad even for that.”
Despite the difficulties, Fr Marron’s life and experience inform him that this too shall pass.