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Obituary: Father Gerard J. O'Meara, St. James Society missionary in Peru


Father Gerard J. O'Meara Courtesy photo

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"He's the unknown Boston priest," said Merrimack Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey who then immediately added "He was just an outstanding priest; when I was a new missionary even in a different country -- I was in Bolivia, he in Peru -- he contacted and encouraged me."

Father Gerard J. O'Meara was born on Dec. 2, 1931, in Limerick, Ireland. His late parents Daniel and Mary were proud of their seven children, Mary, Kay, Anne, and Donal, all deceased; and Gerry's surviving sisters: Esther O'Donnell of Lynbrook, N.Y., and Bernice of Limerick.

Father O'Meara's trek through the Boston Archdiocese was brief; thus, the reason he is unknown. After secondary school studies, he entered St. Patrick Seminary in Carlow and studied for the priesthood there. Bishop Thomas Keogh of Kildare and Leighlin ordained him on June 10, 1956, for service in the Archdiocese of Glasgow, Scotland.

The Carlow seminary along with five others in Ireland -- All Hallows, Dublin; St. Patrick, Thurles; St. Peter, Wexford; St. John, Waterford; and St. Kieran, Kilkenny, prepared students for service in Irish dioceses as well as for dioceses around the world. All Hallows educated priests exclusively for service outside Ireland. From its inception in 1793 until its closing as a seminary in 1993, Carlow educated more than 3,000 Irish priests for service outside Ireland. Among its "notable" alumni were Ireland's first cardinal, Paul Cullen, later rector of the Irish College at Rome and archbishop of Armagh and then of Dublin; and Charleston's first Bishop John England. A more contemporary Carlow alumnus, and fellow St. James Society alumnus is Bishop Edmond Carmody, bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi.

In 1964, the missionary spirit still alive and Scotland not being "missionary" enough, Father O'Meara entered the St. James Society and was missioned to Peru, where he served actively for nearly 40 years and subsequently remained in Peru following his "retirement" in 2003 and until just a few months ago when he came back to the US. In 1976, he was incardinated into the archdiocese and thus became a Boston priest.

His fellow St. James Society alumni remember him as a happy, generous, and supportive brother priest who loved Peru and its people, and relished all the years he served there.

Even at 88 he was still going strong. The Society's present director and fellow Limerick man, Father David Costello, reporting Gerry's unexpected death on Saturday, Oct. 17, wrote "I spoke at length with Gerry on Friday (Oct. 16) afternoon; he was in good form and was making plans to go home to Ireland for Christmas." At the time of his death, Father O'Meara was visiting his sister, Esther O'Donnell on Long Island. The old words of the Roman Martyrology come to mind "he fell asleep in the Lord."

Father Costello was the principal celebrant of Father O'Meara's funeral at St. Raymond of Penafort Church, East Rockaway, N.Y., on Oct. 21, 2020. Father O'Meara's remains will be returned to Ireland for a funeral Mass and interment with his family in Limerick, Ireland. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at a later date here in Boston.

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