Thanks given for the life, service of Fr. Larkin

Bishop Carl A. Kemme watches over Fr. Larkin’s casket as his brother priest recess after the Irish priest’s funeral Saturday, Nov. 26, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. Slideshow available at (Advance photos)

Two days after Thanksgiving Bishop Carl A. Kemme was giving thanks for the life and service of Fr. Patrick Larkin.

Fr. Larkin, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita for 65 years, died Thursday, Nov. 17, at the Catholic Care Center in Wichita. He was 89.

We are blessed, Bishop Kemme said Saturday morning, Nov. 26, standing at his cathedra in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

“Many of us acknowledge that the source of our blessings is a loving God, whose generosity to us knows no bounds. To give thanks to God is as we say in our liturgy, right and just, for like the one leper in the Gospel who had been cured of his disease, we who believe do what is right and just by returning to the Lord to offer our humble thanks.”

Beloved Irish priests

The diocese has a special reason to give thanks, the bishop said: for the life and ministry of, Fr. Larkin, one of the diocese’s beloved retired and foreign-born Irish priests. “To give thanks to God for his life and for the blessing that has been ours for these nearly 65 years is truly right and just. And so, we come to this table of plenty, this true feast of thanksgiving, which Father Larkin celebrated for nearly 65 years, and we recall the unique and altogether singular blessing that Father Larkin was to our diocesan family.”

Looking out to those attending, including several members of his family who flew in from Ireland, the bishop said Fr. Larkin answered the call as many of his brother priests did at the time to come to the United States and to the Diocese of Wichita.

Msgr. Larkin was already in the diocese

“His uncle (Msgr. Patrick Larkin) was serving here and so he came as well, so young and idealistic, so enthusiastic for service to the people of the Plains. I am not aware if he came thinking he would ever return, but we know he didn’t and at some point, in time, he made our diocese his home.”

The bishop said many, including himself, sought out Fr. Larkin for Confession.

“My own experience attests to his kindness, his gracious welcome and his easy and merciful brevity. I did wonder though if he kept it short and sweet so to speak in order for him to get back to watching Irish sports on the internet, which he spent hours and hours doing,” he said.

He love his sports

“In fact, when I first arrived and he lived near my residence at the Priest Retirement Center, it was explained to me, that if my internet was slow and sluggish it was probably due to Fr. Larkin claiming large amounts of the bandwidth. Oh well, it seems like a small sacrifice for someone who gave so much.”

Bishop Kemme said he often thinks of the elder priests who were ordained just before Vatican II who weathered the turbulence of those times and remained faithful to their commitments when many left the priesthood. “We should never underestimate the challenges these priests experienced and yet never wavered from the gift they gave on the day of their ordination.”

November: dedicated to the dead

The bishop said the funeral was being held in the month of November, a month dedicated to the holy souls. “Let us then entrust Father Larkin to the mercy of Jesus so that he will be cleansed of any sins for which he may yet have to atone and like we do for all the faithful departed, let us pray that whatever purgation is necessary for him before he takes his rightful place in heaven will be speedily accomplished and completed in due order.”

The people of Ireland also need our prayers, Bishop Kemme said.

“From all reports, the faith is under great distress with few attending Mass and few answering the call to priesthood and the religious life. The Ireland of 1957 with all the missionary priests being sent to all parts of the world, is a far cry from the Ireland today. May the faith there, that once was so alive and abundant, finds its necessary renewal and revival.”

He closed his homily by asking God to receive Fr. Larkin’s soul. “And may we who continue on after him, endeavor to be faithful and true to our commitments as he was, until the day when the Lord calls us home and with him and all the faithful departed, at long last, we will live forever and enjoy that eternal banquet of endless praise and thanksgiving of which the Eucharist here on earth is but a foretaste and promise. God rest his soul for all eternity. Amen.”

Like many of the Irish priests before him, Fr. Larkin arrived to the United States by ship. According to the Oct. 25, 1957, edition of the Catholic Advance, he sailed on the S.S. America from Cobb, Ireland, on Oct. 2, 1957, and arrived in New York on Oct. 8.

A rough voyage

It was a rough voyage. “Terrific storms plagued us for two days,” Fr. Larkin said.

After sightseeing in New York and visiting relatives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Fr. Larkin flew to Wichita. He was greeted at the airport by Bishop Mark K. Carroll.
Fr. Larkin was born on March 16, 1933, in Ireland. He received his seminary education at St. Kieran’s College in Kilkenny, County Kilkenny, Ireland, and was ordained on June 2, 1957.

He was appointed an assistant at St. Patrick Parish in Parsons on Oct. 21, 1957. He later served at Holy Savior Parish, as a teacher at Mount Carmel, as an assistant at Blessed Sacrament Parish, and then returned to Mount Carmel as the director of Religious Education.

Fr. Larkin was named pastor of St. Patrick Church in Harper on July 1, 1967. Before being moved to St. Patrick Parish in Kingman in 1973, he served as the diocesan director of a Thanksgiving Clothing Drive, and of the Bishop’s Relief Collection. While at Kingman he also served on the diocesan Liturgical Commission and the Priests’ Council.

In 1984, after serving for about nine years in Kingman, Fr. Larkin was named pastor of St. Ignatius Parish in Neodesha. He was moved to St. Louis Parish in Waterloo and St. Rose Parish in Mt. Vernon in 1986. The next year he was named pastor of Mother of God Parish in Oswego and Sacred Heart Parish in Chetopa.

Father served the two Southeast Kansas parishes for about eight years before being named pastor of St. Martin Parish in Caldwell in 1995. He retired three years later.
Fr. Larkin was one of 63 priests from Ireland who served the diocese.