A priest with an innate sympathy for the underdog

A priest with an innate sympathy for the underdog Fr Ronan Drury
A great crafter of the spoken and written word has gone to God, writes Fr Michael Mullaney


Ronan Drury came to Maynooth as a young man in 1942 to prepare for the priesthood and, apart from three years, he lived his priesthood in this college. He had a great devotion to this place and its traditions. Despite the length of years that God blessed him with, he always remained young at heart.

When he first came to the college it was a stricter and more severe place, and yet he showed great humanity and warmth to the students all throughout his time here. He was approachable, caring, friendly, generous and respectful. He had an innate sympathy for the underdog and gave extra support for the weaker student. Students had a great fondness for him and that affection for him never diminished through the generations of students that passed through here.

Not only had he a great humanity but also a great sense of humour. He lived life with heartiness and zest, his presence and company brightened the room when his arrival at the table lifted a dull conversation. He was, in the whole of his health, delightful company, quick witted and a man blessed with a great recall.

As professor of eloquence and homiletics, Fr Drury made a huge contribution to the formation of seminarians in challenging us to be imaginative, creative, effective, real, relevant and vulnerable when breaking open the Word of God for the People of God. He himself was an inspiring and poetic preacher and particularly famous for preaching at 68 midnight Masses in his native Mullagh, Co. Cavan. For those of us from the country he taught us voice-training – ironing out my terrible Tipperary ‘ths’. I occasionally still lapse back into mispronouncing them. He was always an encouraging teacher. If he didn’t think much of the homily or reflection you had prepared, he would strive to find a word, a sentence and if you were really lucky a paragraph he saw some hope in. I have to admit, I had a few of those experiences.


As editor of The Furrow he gave many an opportunity to voice new ideas and thinking, especially those who were on the margins of the Church: alternative voices as well as those who reflected on the challenges and changes facing the Church in modern Ireland.

With great humility in the background as editor for some 40 years he produced a monthly magazine providing readers with wide range of thought-provoking material, sometimes controversial, but like Ronan himself, never uninteresting.

Through The Furrow, he informed and opened minds. But he was an editor to the end, overseeing the October issue a month ago. When I called to see him in the hospital recently, I told him I was preparing notes for someone giving a conference lecture. I asked him if the notes were not used, could I rework them for The Furrow. Even from his sick bed he asked, would I have it ready for the November issue deadline. An editor to the end.

Those who journeyed with him in recent months will know how much he suffered quietly and uncomplainingly. Facing the end of life, he revealed his depth of faith and his spiritual strength. He faced death openly, with serenity and left a deep impression on those he spoke with in his final days.

We give thanks to God for the life of Fr Ronan Drury. Maynooth gives thanks for the humanity, the humour and the humility with which he enriched this college, his home, his colleagues and students over the years.

We commend this crafter of the spoken and written word to rest in the Word himself.

And now the plough is still and the furrows cut, the seed is scattered and the work is done, our prayer, our hope is that Ronan now hears the refreshing and welcoming words: “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy and rest of your Master.”

Fr Michael Mullaney is President of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. This piece is taken from remarks he made in the College Chapel at Maynooth last Sunday evening (19/11/17) during Vespers for the happy repose of the soul of Fr Ronan Drury.