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Catholic Life

Parish says farewell to beloved priest

Archbishop Longley celebrates funeral Mass of Mgr Thomas Fallon at parish he served for 34 years

By on Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The congregation pauses after the coffin is sprinkled with holy water for the last time

The congregation pauses after the coffin is sprinkled with holy water for the last time

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham was the principal celebrant and preacher at the funeral Mass of Mgr Thomas Fallon at St Francis of Assisi church, Handsworth in Birmingham, on Monday September 19, where Mgr Fallon had served for 34 years, writes Peter Jennings.

Bishop David McGough, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, and Bishop Philip Pargeter, retired auxiliary of Birmingham, were in the sanctuary with the archbishop, together with Mgr Canon John Moran, the recently retired vicar general, Fr Gregory Winterton, former provost of the Birmingham Oratory, Fr Gerry Kelly, parish priest of St Francis, and other senior priests of the diocese. The concelebrants, including some from Ireland, filled almost one side of the church.

Such was the esteem in which Mgr Fallon was held that the congregation packed the church and St Francis Hall to capacity, where the Mass was relayed, but also overflowed on to the pavement outside.

Archbishop Longley welcomed family and friends of Mgr Fallon, some of whom had travelled from Ireland to be present, as well parishioners and many other people, including members of the Vietnamese community.

During his homily Archbishop Longley said: “We have first a strong sense of gratitude. We want to thank God for a strong personality possessed of many gifts and chosen for a life of priestly service to which he was cheerfully and entirely devoted. 

“We are grateful that Mgr Tom found a deep satisfaction and happiness in his life as a priest which flowed into his priestly ministry for the benefit of parishioners and of his brother priests. There is also sadness – not so much for Mgr Tom, even when we bear in mind his struggle in recent years to overcome the limitations that increasing frailty placed on his mobility. 

“The sadness is more for ourselves as we realise that we no longer share his company on the next stretch of our own pilgrimage, now that his pilgrimage has reached its goal.”

At the end of Mass Bishop Pargeter presided at the Final Commendation.  The emotion in the packed church was palpable as the priests sang the deeply moving “Song of Farewell” to Mgr Fallon as Bishop Pargeter sprinkled the wooden coffin with holy water. 

The coffin was carried shoulder-high out of the church Mgr Tom knew so well and into the bright early afternoon sunshine.