Gulf Pine Catholic

Volume 40, Issue 24 July 21, 2023 G ulf P ine C atholic Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Biloxi Deacon Finnegan remembered as “man of faith, hope and love” BY TERRY DICKSON OCEAN SPRINGS -- Deacon Martin Finnegan, the first permanent deacon ordained for the Diocese of Biloxi, died July 12 following a 12-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 83. A Mass of Christian Burial for Deacon Finnegan was celebrated July 11 at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Ocean Springs. Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III was princi- pal celebrant and homilist. Concelebrants were Father Sergio Balderas, pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish; Father George Kitchin, former pastor; Father George Murphy, Father Tony Arguelles, Father Mike Snyder, Father Godfrey Andoh and Father Vincent Ajayi. Deacon Michael Butler assisted Bishop Kihneman; also present were other members of the perma- nent deacon community. Burial followed at Evergreen Cemetery. “Deacon Martin was a man of deep, deep faith and it’s that faith that really drove him in his life, especially in his ser- vice to the Church as a deacon since 1979,” Bishop Kihneman said during his homily. “Our relationship with Jesus is at the heart of our faith and it is at the heart of who we are called to be. In each of the vocations that we live, whether it is in mar- ried life or single life, or religious life or priesthood or the diaconate, all of those vocations are really meant to be tied to Jesus Christ personally. It is the kind of rela- tionship which is a love relationship beyond all love relationships. Obviously, for each of our couples that are married, your love for each other represents how Jesus loves His Church. That is what Brenda and Martin were able to share (as a married couple) for almost 60 years. That is a gift.” Bishop Kihneman further noted that relationship with Jesus is meant to take precedence over our lives, and added that was certainly the case with Deacon Finnegan, especially when it came to the trials and tribulations he faced for the past 12 years. “Martin had cancer -- and that’s how I met him, actu- ally, because I anointed him the first time I saw him,” Bishop Kihneman said. “The Anointing of the Sick is a moment, and, in that moment, Martin really had a smile on his face. He was lifted up in love. That is really who he has been in life, a man of great love, a man of great faith and a man of great hope.” BishopKihneman said that despite Deacon Finnegan’s illness, he never lost hope. “When you have an illness like that, it can drain your hope, but he had faith in Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Kihneman. “He believed, and that belief came through every time you met him, every time you were with him. Obviously, he knew that none of us are going to get out of this life alive because, in the end, all of us are going to get out of this life alive in Christ. That was his faith. That is what he believed. That is what he knew in his life. That is what he lived as a husband and as a father and also as a deacon.” Bishop Kihneman alluded to the words of St. John’s Gospel, where he writes, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? “I can’t wait to see the place he’s got for Deacon Martin,” the bishop said. “Think about what is in it. That place is a place of deep love. There would be love in every corner and on every shelf.” Bishop Kihneman continued, “The Lord has called (Deacon Finnegan) to Himself and we now lift him up in prayer and deep love but knowing that the Lord has truly prepared a place for him.” “Where Jesus is, Deacon Martin want- ed to go.” The bishop assured the Finnegan family and all in attendance that they now have a powerful intercessor in Deacon Finnegan. “I pray that God’s peace will be yours. It’s hard, it really is, even with a man of deep faith, but rest assured I believe that you have a powerful intercessor in heav- en,” he said. “Deacon Martin is speaking at the feet of Jesus every moment of every day for all of you.” A life of service Deacon Finnegan was born in Rose Hill, MS, on a snowy February 22, 1940, to Charles and Ruth Graham Finnegan, the third of six children. The doctor arrived in a horse and buggy, as he couldn’t drive in the snow- storm. He lived with his family in Petal, MS, and in Aiken, South Carolina, before moving to Hattiesburg, where he graduated from Sacred Heart School in 1959. He entered the U.S. Air Force that year and served as an aircraft mechanic and flight chief in Texas, Missouri and in Thule, Greenland, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1963, he married his high school sweetheart, the former Brenda Brown, and attendedMississippi State University. They moved to Pascagoula in 1966, where he went to work at Chevron Refinery. SEE DEACON MARTIN FINNEGAN, PAGE 8 Deacon Martin Finnegan Photo/Juliana Skelton