Sunday 21 April 2024

Remembering Fr Brian White: Priest made religion relevant to everyday life

A fundraiser in memory of Fr Brian White will see friends climb Croagh Patrick 

Affectionately known as ‘Wee Father White’, the then Deacon Brian White first came to the parish of Drumcree in Portadown in 2002.

Following his ordination in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh the following year, the parish was doubly blessed to have him appointed as their curate, where he endeared himself to all by investing himself wholeheartedly in every aspect of life, both secular and spiritual, over the next seven years.

Faith, family, friends and fun were his priorities, making religion relevant to the lives of those privileged to encounter him.

It was his ordinariness as a person that made him such an extraordinary priest. As Rudyard Kipling wrote: ‘lf you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch... yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.’

Fr White was a person of great vision. He recognised that the youth were crucial in copper-fastening the future of the Church.

The architect of SHYNE youth group and co-founder of the Armagh Diocesan Youth Commission, along with the Gift programme and Síolta Retreats, he involved young people in every aspect of Church life, including youth Masses and stations of the cross, pilgrimages to World Youth Day in Krakow and Madrid, Taize, Lourdes, and his favourite, Croagh Patrick, where he loved to say Mass on reaching the top.

A business, finance and economics graduate from Queen’s University Belfast, he had forfeited a lucrative career in banking to enter Maynooth to study for the priesthood.

After leaving Drumcree in 2010 he served as a curate in Haggardstown & Blackrock in Co Louth for nine years, then as assistant priest in Keady & Derrynoose back in Co Armagh.

Fr White was also chair of Armagh Diocesan Youth Council from 2007 to 2016, director of formation at the Permanent Diaconate from 2016-20, and since then, during a time of ill health, he provided assistance in Dungannon, Warrenpoint & Burren and parishes in Dundalk.

His was a genuine vocation to serve, with The Servant King being his favourite hymn.

His professional qualifications meant he was as at home on the altar celebrating Mass as he was off it in administration. He had the complete package including being an avid Armagh GAA fan and former player for O’Connell’s, Tullysaran, a Strictly Come Dancing ballroom dancer and champion road bowler.

However, perhaps it was in the confessional where Fr Brian was at his optimum both as a confessor and counsellor. There were no grey issues with him. It was either black or white, right or wrong.

His untimely death aged 46 at his home in Tullysaran on November 8 2023, following a sudden cardiac arrest, has left all who knew and loved him shocked and saddened.

He is greatly missed by his brother Feargal, his sisters Geraldine and Darina, relatives, friends, neighbours, the hierarchy, his fellow priests and the parishioners of the parishes where he served.

As the prophet Micah says: What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God. Fr Brian White ticked all the boxes and no doubt when he joined his parents, Margaret and Patrick, along with his late sister Patricia in heaven, a céad míle fáilte awaited him, with the Lord saying: Well done, good and faithful servant.

:: On Sunday May 5, family and friends of Fr Brian will climb Croagh Patrick to raise money for NI Chest Heart and Stroke and a walking track at O’Connell’s, Tullysaran. Anyone who would like to contribute can visit the GoFundMe page ‘In memory of Fr Brian White’ organised by his niece, Caitlin Carlisle, or phone Nuala at Keady’s parish office on 028 3753 1242 or email