Tears began to well in the eyes of many of those attending the funeral of Father Donal O’Hare when they began singing “O Loving God,” to the tune of Danny Boy, at the end of the Mass Friday, March 17, the Feast of St. Patrick.
The ballad is about death and love of Ireland.
Father O’Hare, who died March 12 at the age of 93, was a son of Ireland and one of the many priests who traveled to Kansas in the 1950s to serve the church. He was a priest of the Diocese of Wichita for 62 years.
The Most Rev. James Conley, bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, and a close friend of Father O’Hare, was the homilist for the Mass, which was also celebrated by Bishop Carl A. Kemme and many diocesan priests.
After thanking the O’Hare family members who traveled from Ireland to be a part of the funeral in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita, Bishop Conley talked about the sacrifice made by the many priests who left Ireland for the United States.
Father O’Hare was Bishop Conley’s first mentor after Father Conley was ordained in 1985 and was assigned to St. Patrick Parish in Wichita.
Bishop Conley said the two of them started at St. Patrick’s at about the same time. “When I showed up nearly 32 years ago this June, Father O’Hare was the same age I am now. I don’t know what that means, but I think it’s pretty cool!”
He said the readings of the Mass talked about the goodness, the kindness, and the mercy of Almighty God. “Father O’Hare lived those words in his 62 years of priestly ministry,” he said.
Bishop Conley said his mentor had a way with words and had a custom of underlining words with a ruler. He also had a keen sense of the supernatural like Cardinal Newman, who taught about the transitory nature of this world: “[I]n spite of this universal world which we see, there is another world, quite as far-spreading, quite as close to us, and more wonderful…All around us are numberless objects, coming and going, watching, working or waiting, which we see not: this is that other world, which the eyes reach not unto, but faith only.”
Father O’Hare formed the newly ordained Father Conley not so much by what he said but through his actions and deeds, Bishop Conley said. “They instructed me on how to be a good priest.”
In one of their first meetings Father O’Hare discussed the division of labor with his new associate.
“If you will do the matching and hatching,” he told Father Conley, “I’ll do all the dispatching.”
Father Conley initially thought he got the happy end of the deal but learned that at funerals everyone thanks the presiding priest and at weddings “there is a lot of drama.”
After talking about the role Father O’Hare had in bringing Bishop Conley’s mother and father into the church, the bishop once again thanked all the Irish clergy who left their beloved homeland to serve in the United States.
“I am so blessed to have known these priests and we are indebted to them,” he said.
Father O’Hare was born on Sept. 29, 1923, in Ireland. He studied at All Hallows Seminary in Dublin and was ordained there on June 20, 1954.
He served as a chaplain in Parsons after arriving in the Diocese of Wichita in November of 1954. Five years later, in 1959, he was named an associate at Saint Patrick Parish in Wichita. He also taught at St. Mary’s Cathedral High School while in Wichita.
Father O’Hare was named pastor of St. Ambrose in Erie and of St. Joseph in South Mound in 1965. He was moved to Holy Name in Coffeyville in 1969 where he was pastor until his return as pastor of St. Patrick, Wichita, in 1984. He was named pastor of St. Anthony/St. Rose in Wellington in 1995 and retired the next year.
Father O’Hare is buried at Ascension Cemetery in Wichita, next to his brother priests, including several who, like him, “crossed the pond” to serve the diocese.