Statement from Archbishop Michael Neary on the death of Father Enda McDonagh RIP

25 Feb 2021

  • Father Enda McDonagh was a priest of the Archdiocese of Tuam and Professor Emeritus of Theology at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth

It was with great sadness that I received the news yesterday of Father Enda McDonagh’s death in Saint Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin.  A colossus on the Irish theological landscape for more than six decades, he continued to research, write, and inspire throughout his distinguished teaching career and during the years of his retirement.

Father Enda was known and respected by people of all theological hues and none, and because of the way he wore his learning so lightly, and because of his genuine humility and personal warmth, people felt comfortable in his presence, and enriched by the encounter.  While he had well thought-out opinions of his own, he was always utterly respectful of those who had different and sincerely held opinions, and his good-humoured and personable manner always saw to it that nobody felt belittled in a discussion or debate. 

While the Archdiocese of Tuam was always proud of the fact that he was a priest of this diocese, he was at home in every diocese because of the simple fact that he taught generations of Irish priests, most of whom served in Ireland, some of whom brought the Gospel to the very ends of the world.  Many will point to Enda as the person who opened their minds in the quest for faith seeking understanding.

Born on 27 June 1930 in Bekan, Co. Mayo, Father Enda attended the local primary school where his parents were teachers.  He received his secondary education at Saint Jarlath’s College, Tuam, and from there he went to Maynooth in 1948 where, as things turned out, he was to spend the rest of his life.  He was ordained to the priesthood in the College Chapel of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, on 19 June 1955.  He took undergraduate degrees in science and theology before embarking on postgraduate work in theology culminating in a Doctorate in Divinity (DD) in 1957.  He continued his studies in Rome and Munich and was conferred with the Doctorate in Canon Law (DCL) in 1960.  Already, in 1958, he was appointed Professor of Moral Theology in Maynooth, a position he was to hold until his retirement in 1995.

Despite his high profile as a scholar, theologian and intellectual, and despite his being in demand by so many educational institutions and public personalities, Enda never forgot his native place and maintained contact with his brother priests in the Archdiocese of Tuam.  During his retirement it was more convenient for him to attend various diocesan functions and celebrations, and he was always perfectly at ease and thoroughly entertained by the stories and anecdotes from pastoral ministry – for which he prepared many, but never had the opportunity to experience for himself.

Tá laoch ar lár.  Go raibh leaba aige i measc na naomh.

Requiescat in pace.


  • Archbishop Michael Neary is Archbishop of Tuam.                                     

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