Dublin, Ireland - The Irish Catholic Church is – deservedly – receiving a terrible press at the moment. It’s easy to forget that the vast majority of the priests who work for it are faithful to their vows. Fr Jeremiah (Jerry) Roche, 68, a missionary in Kenya, was faithful to them until he died last week, having been stripped naked and stabbed in the throat by robbers. His killers then made off with his CD player, two mobile phones – and his clothes. I find that last horrible detail particularly striking; for someone else had his clothes stolen as He lay dying.
The Irish Independent carries a report of Fr Roche’s murder here. It quotes his niece, Anne:
“Jerry was a lovely man, he devoted his life to his faith and the church and he is someone whom we are all very proud of.
“There were five boys and six girls in his family growing up and he was the only one to become a priest. Everyone was very proud of him and his faith and dedication to the church in Africa. He loved it over there..
“He was ordained in ‘68 and has been back and forth to Africa since. He returned earlier this year and loved to call into the neighbours and catch up.
“He spent time working as a priest in Castleisland, Co Kerry, in Bruff, Co Limerick, and Grenagh, Co Cork, and was always fundraising for schools and churches in Kenya.
“Even when he was home, he was working to raise money for his parish in Kenya and always received great support from everyone in west Limerick,” his niece said.
“He loved the Irish language and would always try to speak it to anyone else who could.
“He was a great man for following Limerick hurling and would always try to make the games when he came home. We are just terribly sad here. All we have are good thoughts of Jerry. With everything that is going on in the church now, he was a real role model.”
Indeed. Fr Jerry knew perfectly well that serving in Kenya is a perilous business for priests; but then, in my experience, wherever it is most dangerous to preach the Gospel you will find indefatigable Irish priests and religious. And they’re still there, risking their lives despite the horrible headlines from home.