Father Tom marks 60 year milestone

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A Scarborough man who is celebrating 60 years in the priesthood has been honoured at a special Mass of Thanksgiving.

Father Tom O’Connell, of St George’s Church, Eastfield, was joined by around 150 people, including the Bishop of Middlesbrough, priests from the Middlesbrough Diocese and members of the Eastfield community.

The Diamond Jubilee Mass was followed by an informal get-together and buffet.

Originally from Limerick, Father Tom started out in the priesthood in 1953, completing his training in Dublin where he was then ordained.

He came to Scarborough 34 years ago from Leyburn in the Yorkshire Dales and has also worked in Redcar, Middlesbrough, Hull and York.

Now at the age of 85, Father Tom has officially retired but is still an assistant priest at St George’s.

He said: “I’m still enjoying my priesthood - I’ve never enjoyed it as much as I do now.

“Because I’m officially retired, I’m free to do what I want to do and what I’m able to do - and as long as I’m able, I’ll keep going.”

Father Tom says he has no plans to move away from Eastfield, as he is so fond of the area, adding: “I love Eastfield - I wouldn’t leave it for the world.”

He also said that he really enjoys working with parish priest Father Andrew Smith and that they “get on grand together”.

Father Tom said the highlights of his priesthood so far have been the offering of Mass and helping people with conversions.

He explained: “I really enjoy helping people become Catholics and dealing with enquiries about the Catholic faith.

“I enjoy preparing children and their parents. I also enjoy helping people who are having marriage problems.”

Another highlight for Father Tom has been working with schools, particularly St George’s RC Primary School in Eastfield.

He said: “I love the school work. There is a new, young team at St George’s now with a new headteacher starting in September. There are great possibilities there.”

Father Tom now plans to carry on as best he can, saying “It’s up to the Lord to call a halt”.

He said health problems can make it difficult at times, but will carry on the work he enjoys so much.

Members of the community have joined Father Tom in celebrating his Diamond Jubilee of priesthood, including Hugh Davey who took the photographs shown here of the service.

He said: “Father Tom is very well thought of by people in the community. There were around 150 people at the service and everyone enjoyed it. There was a fantastic sense of community spirit.”

Mr Davey added that it was great to see so many priests attending, plus the Bishop of Middlesbrough, Terence Drainey.