After years of seeing the goodness of the Franciscans and their work in the community, an 86-year-old radio DJ is delighted he followed the religious path.
Believed to be the oldest man on the radio Fr Cletus Noone, who has a show called Noone at Night on Saturdays at 9pm, recently celebrated his Diamond Jubilee.
Coming at the same time as the Eucharistic Congress to Ireland, Fr Cletus was born in 1932. Hailing from Galway he had twin sisters, one of which is still alive.
During his school years he spent a decade as an altar boy in the Franciscan Abbey where he saw the work they were doing, and was very impressed.
“Bit by bit it dawned on me, it was the example of the brothers and the priests who were there and their dealings with the people and so on because we were all in the same neighbourhood there, that’s what attracted me. I saw what they were doing and I more or less said if it’s God’s holy will I’d like to do that,” he said.
“There were seven long years after that to see whether it would happen, but thank God it did happen and I’m glad it did because I really enjoyed myself. There were good days, there were tough days at times.”
It was after his Leaving Cert he decided to follow a vocation in the priesthood and join the Franciscans. He was sent to Killarney, which is where anyone hoping to join the order was sent at the time, and then studied in Galway for three years in St Anthony’s College – which has since closed.
“After that now came the problem, we were to go to Rome then from Galway but there were too many students there was no room,” he said – an issue foreign to modern Ireland.
He was subsequently sent to Louvain in Belgium with six others, after a year there they went to Rome to study for a further three years with Fr Cletus being ordained on February 21, 1959.
Returning to Ireland he was sent to Limerick for two years which he thoroughly enjoyed, describing the people as “lovely”, as it was his first posting it holds a special place in his heart but he adds “I must say there was no place I didn’t like thank God”.
After that it was two years in Multyfarnham, back to Killarney for six and once more returned to his beloved Limerick.
Going to Ennis, Co. Clare in 1987, shortly he became involved with Clare FM. Talking about his show he says: “I enjoy it I really do, and we’ve good ol’ craic, I’ll tell a few yarns as well as playing the piece. I’m relying a lot on the prayers on our neighbours next door to me, the Poor Clare Sisters.”
“I get to know more people from the radio than I do from the altar,” he added.
Asked about the changing landscape in Ireland regarding religion, he said: “It all started in the families. The family were a unit, they came to Church together whether they were young or not. Confessions were more plentiful, we were busier doing Confessions then, than we are now.
“People are lovely but we only meet so many here”, with fewer people coming to Church “it’s sad”, he says.
“Sometimes, the funny thing about it, you might get a little message across on the radio that you would not get across in the Church because they’re not in the Church,” he said.
“I’ve found on a few occasions people will contact you later on and maybe they might want to go to Confession or something like that.”
Reaching out to elderly or people suffering from physical disabilities is also another positive about his radio show. “You go to them as it were particularly through the radio, they have Mass on Sunday of course as well naturally, they get the idea that you’re chatting with them individually.
“I have found that’s a reaction from it anyway, that you’d nearly have phoned them up rather than speaking to many of them over the radio,” he says.
Fr Cletus celebrated his diamond jubilee on February 21 with Bishop Willie Walsh who were both ordained on the same day in 1959. He said: “It was just marvellous. On the day I said Mass in a nursing home out in Oranmore in Galway, I’ll tell you why because my sister was out there as a patient.
“I said my Mass there because that sister was the only one I could remember who was at the ordination 60 years ago.”
Despite receiving an offer of retirement from his order, Fr Cletus isn’t ready to sign off just yet and will continue to grace the airways with his popular Saturday night show.
The hour-long programme, filled with music, chat and reflections from the much-loved priest will continue to delight listeners who look forward to it each week.