It is with regret that we inform you of the death at 7.40 p.m. on 29th March 2018, in Herbert House, Freshfield, aged 76, of
Father Michael O’Neill
Mill Hill Missionary
May he rest in peace
Michael was born on 17th September 1941 in Pendlebury, Salford, England. His father, Peter, was married to Lilian (née Byrne), and was an assistant building contractor. He had one sister. He was a pupil at the La Salle College in Pendleton and went on from there to study at our colleges in Freshfield (1956 to 1958) and Burn Hall (1958-1960). He then went to Roosendaal to study Philosophy, and from 1962 to 1966 he studied Theology at St Joseph’s College, Mill Hill, London. On 1st May 1965 he made a life-long commitment to missionary life by taking the Perpetual Oath, and was ordained priest on 9th July the following year at Westminster Cathedral by Cardinal Heenan.
Michael served the Society’s mission in Africa, the United States and Britain. His first appointment, from 1966 to 1969, was to the Diocese of Ngong, Kenya. He worked in Kilgoris as well as in Narok parish. From 1970 to 1972, with Burn Hall as his base, Michael took on vocations ministry in the North East and organising in Middlesbrough Diocese. He returned to Ngong Diocese in 1972, serving as parish priest, first in Kajiado and then in Narok. Michael was recognised as being a very pastoral man who got on well with people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds, involving himself tirelessly with building both the Christian community and the infrastructure of churches and schools. In 1980, he returned to Burn Hall to become its Rector, where he succeeded in turning the house into a centre of mission animation and vocations work in the area. During 1985 and 1986, Michael was back in Africa, this time helping CAFOD/Sudanaid with a repatriation programme in Omdurman and a supplementary feeding programme in Kosti.
Following a renewal course in Navan, Ireland, Michael spent a year in St. Francis Xavier Parish in the Bronx, New York. Then, increasingly concerned with the welfare of his mother who was living on her own and was unwell, he obtained a parish appointment in Liverpool Archdiocese in 1988. He served as priest in St. Benet, Netherton, then in St. Richards, Skelmersdale, and finally in St Bede’s, Chorley. As in Ngong, so here, Michael felt that his gifts were best suited for pastoral ministry, and that this was the kind of ministry that gave him the greatest satisfaction and happiness.
Since arriving in Herbert House for a rest in early December 2017, Michael’s health steadily deteriorated. An endoscopy revealed a tumour in the oesophagus. By mid-January the cancer had spread from there, was of an aggressive nature and not amenable to treatment. Last night, 29th March (Holy Thursday) at 7.40 p.m., in Herbert House, Michael passed away. May he rest in peace.
The reception of Michael’s body will take place at Herbert House on Friday 13th April. The funeral Mass will be celebrated the following day in St Bede’s Church, Chorley, followed by burial there. For more details contact Herbert House, +44 1704 835833, from Wednesday 4th April.