Bernard Doonan was born in Denny in 1940. He
was educated at Drygrange Seminary and he was subsequently ordained
at St Alexander's Denny in 1969.
His first parish was St John the Evangelist at Portobello in
Edinburgh where he was appointed assistant Priest from 1969
to 1972. After this he was appointed as a Professor at Drygrange
Seminary from 1972 until 1986. He returned to Parish work at
St Mark's Edinburgh for a year in 1986-87 and was then moved
to St Margaret's South Queensferry where he ministered from
1987 to 1989.
It was then that Fr Doonan came to St Patrick's Kilsyth soon
after the sudden death of Canon
Karl Krugger the incumbent Parish Priest of Kilsyth in 1989.
Sadly after only a year in Kilsyth Fr Doonan also died suddenly
and unexpectedly on the 28th September 1990. The Parish of St
Patrick's was devastated at the loss of our 2nd Parish Priest
in the space of only 15 months.
Fr Doonan's requiem Mass took place in St Patrick's Kilsyth
and he was subsequently interred in his family plot in his home
Parish of Denny.
Fr Bernard Doonan – Eulogy by Fr
Father Bernard Doonan Parish Priest of St Patrick’s
Kilsyth died on the 28th September 1990, in the 51st year of
his life and in the 22nd of his priesthood. At the funeral Mass
in St Patrick’s on the 3rd of October, the following homily
was given by Father Gerard Hand of Gillis College, Edinburgh.
‘Those of us from outside Kilsyth have come here today
to mourn Fr Ben Doonan. But I think we have also come to be
with you, the Parishioners of St Patrick’s, as you cope
with your grief at losing a new Parish Priest for the second
time in eighteen months. There are feelings of sadness bafflement
and perhaps even anger and guilt amongst us today as we try
to come to terms with Ben’s death as it effects Mrs Doonan
and James, the friends of Ben here today and the Parishioners
of Kilsyth. These are natural feelings in the face of a happening
that we cannot understand or see the point in.
The only thing we may be able to do in faith is to face the
words of the Scripture, and while not avoiding our emotions,
let these words keep our faces turned towards Christ when we
‘The length of days is not what makes age
‘He has sought to please God, so God has loved him.’
‘If we live, we live for the Lord... so that alive or
dead we belong to the Lord.’
This challenges us to see that ultimately our main relationship
in life is that of being with the Lord.
It is that giving of ourselves to being with the Lord, that
lets the Lord produce a rich harvest from us. The Christian
mystery is that in being more available to God, at the same
time we are made more available to others. By living the cross,
married people develop a deeper human love. By living God’s
love, single people are sources of God’s love and grace
for others. The priest in his commitment to Christ’s sacrificial
love is called to make visible the love of God in his love for
the people he serves.
Today in that light we can talk about celebrating Ben’s
life of love as son, brother, friend and priest. One of the
last pieces of advice he gave to one of our students when he
was staying with us last week, was the main task of the priest
in the midst of all the complexities and busy-ness of a priest’s
mission today, was to love the people he was sent to. Ben gave
himself wholly to that task and in the midst of our sadness;
we can also try to rejoice in that.
Ben learnt how to love in the family of his mother, father and
brother and in the family of the people of Denny. He went to
school in Denny and St Modan’s in Stirling. He spent 3
years at medical school and having left that, he spent some
time with the boys in need of care at St Ninian’s Falkland.
(A useful preparation perhaps for his future ministry in the
All along this path it must have been a great temptation to
give up and take an easier way because of the difficulties he
had with his sight. It is a mark of his courage and determination
that he continued and lived out a very active priesthood ranging
from spiritual direction to putting on presentations to 200
teenagers on school missions.
The only advantage that he said he got from his impaired sight
was that he got out of Hebrew class in seminary by claiming
that he could not see the dots on Hebrew vowels. At least, so
But maybe in a strange way that was one of the sources of his
vocation. That God worked with a physical weakness to make it
a source of grace for Ben and those he ministered to.
Ben entered Osterly in 1961 in order to study Latin in preparation
for entry to senior seminary at Drygrange which he did in 1963.
He learned and developed and he influenced others, sometimes
by word and sometimes by the wave of his pipe. The former students
of Drygrange who are here today are witness to the warmth of
friendship he shared there. Fr Conway who will celebrate the
funeral rights after Mass, was one half of the duo known to
us younger and less respectful students as ‘Bill and Ben’
and to those even less respectful as, ‘The Flowerpot Men.’
Ordained in 1960, Ben spent 3 years at St John’s Portobello
where he is still remembered for the warmth and zeal he maintained
to the end of his ministry.
In 1972 he was sent back to Drygrange as a member of staff to
teach philosophy. He seems to have carried out a number of tasks
there. He was complaining somewhat wistfully only last week
that the only subject that he hadn’t taught there was
Scripture. Perhaps two things could be highlighted about his
work there: one is the development of the pastoral training
programme he took over from Fr Barclay, particularly his work
in trying to help students and staff learn to work as a team
in school and parish missions. The other and perhaps less obvious
one to generations of less than enthusiastic philosophy students
is his teaching of philosophy. In that he constantly challenged
staff and students to understand the world we live in, both
in terms of where we are coming from and in regard to the future
world we were going to be working in.
That keenness of mind was needed when in 1986 the seminary moved
to Gillis College Edinburgh. Ben continued to teach in the college
but took up residence in St Mark’s Oxgangs, where he worked
in the Parish and in the city hospital. He was also called upon
to be Deanery representative to work with Father Kruger on parish
renewal. It was a heavy work load and he was forced to call
upon his reserves of faith and humour, sometimes rather trenchantly
expressed, to survive.
It was with both relief at having a settled appointment (so
he thought) and with apprehension that he accepted his appointment
to be parish priest of South Queensferry after his interim period
at Oxgangs. This meant that his appointment to the seminary
was at an end. He looked forward with excitement to going to
South Queensferry and yet with some anxiety as to how he would
manage on his own. Likewise he was ready to leave the seminary
but also a little afraid as to how he would make the break after
14 years. In the event although he found the first few months
difficult in adjusting, he loved the people and Parish of South
Queensferry. He made it his priority to listen to the people
and to try and help the long-term residents of the parish bind
with the relatively new arrivals in the area. A real expression
of that were the parish events where the ground floor of the
house and the club rooms below were literally packed with people
drinking wine or tea and getting to know one another and to
forming their parish community.
Ben was shocked when he was asked to leave South Queensferry
after only 2 years to become the parish priest of Kilsyth after
the death of Canon Kruger. He was very disappointed in having
to leave that Parish he loved but he accepted the Archbishop’s
request to come here to Kilsyth just over a year ago.
Again he took some time to settle, but he threw himself into
the challenges of a very different type of parish. Soon he was
speaking with love and affection of the people of the parish.
He was full of ideas and plans for the Kilsyth Catholic community.
He recognised the pain many of the parishioners experienced
on the death of Father Kruger and was anxious to help people
work through that.
Kilsyth is famous for the number of organisations and groups
that operate within the Parish. Ben with realism saw that a
lot of work needed to be done to help them to become more independent
of the priest and yet more able to relate to one another and
to the priest as a centre of unity within the parish.
Death struck suddenly just as Ben was looking forward to returning
fully to the parish. In the light of the Scripture we are asked
to make an act of Faith in Father Ben’s death and to accept
God’s providence for him, especially in the light of a
life lived in the spirit of prayer and in the virtue that the
Scripture refers to and in the light of a priestly light lived
to the full.
We are asked to give thanks for Ben’s life which made
Christ visible in:
: his preaching and celebrating the sacraments.
: in a constant love and welcome to the people he was among
: in a living out his promise to the person of the Bishop, of
obedience and service to the diocese
: in a willingness to constructively criticise and yet to build
up and support ideas and plans that he didn’t always fully
And above all in the sense he conveyed, that in spite of his
real worries and anxieties, and without false sentimentality,
he was happy being a priest and a disciple of Jesus Christ.
The words of today’s scripture let us see, in terms of
grace, understanding and virtue that Father Ben’s life
was indeed long. And so it is with confidence that we can make
our own today’s Gospel that says, ‘If anyone serves
me, my father will honour him.’
May he rest in peace.’
Eulogy by kind permission of The Scottish Catholic
Directory, 1991 edition, pages 414 - 416.