Fr Patrick (Patsy) Keenan, O.Carm. (1917-2002)

This homily was preached by the Prior Provincial, F. Burke, O.Carm., at the Memorial Mass in Terenure College Chapel on the evening of Monday, August 26, 2002.

As believers we constantly face the paradox of death.  On the one hand, we are deeply saddened by our loss.  Fr Patsy, a familiar and loved presence will be among us no longer. We recall precious memories of happier times together – memories which become more cherished as each day passes.
On the other hand, we know this is only part of the reality we call death. We firmly believe that Fr. Patsy, a virtuous man, is at peace. He has reached a farther shore, where he will enjoy the fullness of life Jesus won for all those who follow him faithfully.
Fr Patsy was in his 85th year. He lived a long, healthy, full and contented life and we are thankful to God for the many blessings he bestowed upon him. Patrick Keenan, from Ballymore Eustace, became a pupil of Terenure College in 1931 and so began a life-long association with the Carmelite Order. His life as a Carmelite began and ended in Kinsale. As a novice there in 1935, he had the unforgettable privilege of meeting Blessed Titus Brandsma, the Dutch Carmelite martyred in Dachau in 1942. This year, Fr Patsy celebrated his diamond jubilee of ministry as a priest. Indeed, only a month ago we gathered in Kinsale for an enjoyable and memorable celebration to honour him and to acknowledge his steadfast dedication to priestly ministry over sixty years. It was a day Fr Patsy really enjoyed, surrounded by his family, his friends and his Carmelite brethren.
Fr Patsy will be forever closely associated with Terenure College where he spent almost forty years of his Carmelite life. His teaching career was a distinguished one. He held every office of responsibility in the college: teacher, dean of studies, prior and president for six years and finally bursar. He loved and promoted sport and believed in its importance in the wholesome formation and development of boys. He was a dedicated coach and helped to raise the profile of the college in athletics.
He loved rugby and had a phenomenal memory for players and match details. He was a past President of the Terenure College Rugby Club. He had a keen interest in the G.A.A. too, especially, the fortunes or lack of fortune of the “lily whites.” There are many great stories told of Patsy’s times in Terenure College and especially his effort to appear fearsome to the boys. It never worked, they all knew his bark was worse than his bite.
There is a story told of Fr Patsy and his great friend Fr Andy Clarke. There was a general election pending and Patsy and Andy decided that since they were on opposite sides of the political divide they wouldn’t bother voting, they would only be cancelling each other out, as it were. Patsy was working away in the bursary when he spotted Andy, dressed up and leaving the college. He promptly followed him and they both met at the polling station. Patsy was too long on the road and too shrewd a man to fall for that sort of electoral pact.
In 1982, having retired from teaching, Fr Patsy decided to move to our friary in Kinsale. It was a brave decision and a typical example of how Fr Patsy applied his good judgement and wisdom to his own life. In Kinsale there began a new and totally different phase of his life. He fell in love with Kinsale and the people of Kinsale took him to their hearts. In Kinsale, he put his administrative skills to work as bursar. He was director of the Third Order and he accompanied the Kinsale group on their annual pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Above all, he attended faithfully to the pastoral needs of the many people associated with our friary there. Kinsale and its people became his consuming interest. He developed strong links with the local parish and the Church of Ireland and Methodist communities.
When Kinsale was a house of formation for our novices, Fr Patsy’s help and advice to young Carmelites was much sought after, freely given and greatly appreciated.
Fr Patsy was loved and respected not just for what he did but for the sort of man he was. He was a wise counsellor, always worth listening to. You disregarded his advice at your peril. He possessed a droll sense of humour which enlivened every gathering. He loved retelling stories from his time in Terenure College and he could have a laugh at the foibles and figarees of the brethren too.
Fr Patsy did not spare himself in the service of his community. In every community as in every home, there are the mundane everyday matters to be constantly attended to. Quietly and faithfully, day in, day out, Fr. Patsy would attend to these simple but essential tasks. An example of this, were the years he spent supervising the canteen at lunchtime here.
We, his Carmelite brothers and his relatives and friends will sorely miss his warmth and kindness, his wisdom and good judgement, his dedication and faithfulness to his Carmelite vocation and ministry.
Despite our sadness, we are grateful to God for the long life and fruitful ministry of Fr Patsy. In gratitude, we bid him farewell. For his steadfast dedication, for the enrichment he brought to so many people’s lives and for the example he was to all of us, we thank and praise God.
May his kind and gentle soul rest in peace.