St Eugene’s Cathedral
Francis Street, Derry
BT48 9AP | Tel: 028 7126 2302
|Born||13 March 1920
|Ordained||18 June 1944
|Died||11 March 2013|
Thomas Philip Donnelly was born in Portrush on 13 March 1920. He was ordained to priesthood on 18 June 1944. After studies in the University of Grenoble in France, he was appointed in 1945 to teach French in St Columb's College. In 1963 he was appointed Principal of the new St Patrick's College, Maghera. He then moved to parish life in 1974, as PP of Urney. In 1976 he became parish priest of Ardstraw West and Castlederg, where he served until 1980, when he moved as PP to Limavady. He was pastor there for the next 15 years. When he retired as Parish Priest, he went to serve as curate in Foreglen.
Fr Phil was first and foremost an obedient and dutiful servant of the Church. He was forever the teacher, sharing his knowledge and encouraging others in education. A stalwart of Catholic Education, he encouraged every school in his care to excel and to never be satisfied with anything other than the best for everyone. In his pastoral work he was assiduous in home visitation of his parishioners. Time meant nothing to Fr Phil and, often, the man of the house had to be aroused from his bed, when Fr Donnelly would arrive at an unholy hour on his pastoral visit.
Fr Phil was a family man, a kind and thoughtful brother and uncle. He was a keen golfer from an early age and, in his day, was a single handicapper. He never lost his well known passion for history and for writing books. He loved the freedom of the open road and often said that driving gave him energy, which might explain the evidence found of a few speeding fines! It is safe to say at this stage that, when asked if he ever drove at 100mph, he did admit that he had. The loss of his driving licence, because of failing health, was something that he never really came to terms with. Indeed, it is said he tried to bribe a visiting doctor to write a letter in his favour to get it back again. Even in declining health, Fr Phil was determined to carry out the duties of Chaplain to the residents of Nazareth House, until his body and voice were just too weak.
The following article which Fr Phil wrote in the Furrow in 1958 sums him up. He described the newly appointed parish priest of his beloved Grenoble as "a man of the people, intelligent and well-read, undemonstrative and practical. He can talk a good deal when the occasion demands it and he has a dry, observant humour."
Fr Phil's wish to be buried in the soil of Co Derry, in the Foreglen, was granted. May he rest in peace.