Gulf Pine Catholic

Gulf Pine CATHOLIC VOLUME 41 / NUMBER 19 May 10, 2024 Father Pat O’Shaughnessy, 80, dies after long illness BY TERRY DICKSON LONG BEACH -- In the early 2000s, Father Pat O’Shaughnessy was pastor of St. Michael Parish in Biloxi when he learned some college students from his home country of Ireland were playing soccer on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for William Carey University. “He went and found them and befriended them, because he knew they were away from home and he knew what it was like being a young person away from home,” said Father O’ Shaughnessy’s good friend and fellow Irishman, Father Tommy Conway. “One Saturday night, these students were trav- eling across Highway 90 right in front of Edgewater Mall and had a horrible accident where one of them was killed.” Traecy Staunton, a 20-year-old freshman who came to Mississippi from her native Ireland on a soccer scholarship, perished in the accident. “Father Pat had the job in the middle of the night of phoning her parents back in Ireland to tell them the horrible news,” said Father Conway. “The next day, he said, ‘I’m going to Ireland’ and I said, ‘You don’t even know the family.’ “Then Father Pat said to me, ‘It doesn’t matter. I talked to her family on the phone and I’m going to accompany her body back to Ireland. I’m not going to let her go back by herself. He packed up whatever was important in his life and brought her home to her parents and stayed for the funeral.” Father Conway then read in the Irish condolences where Staunton’s family commented that, every year since her death as long as he was able, on the anniver- sary of her death, as well as Christmas, Easter and every Irish holiday, Father O’Shaughnessy called them in Ireland to see how they were doing. “That’s the kind of guy that he was,” Father Conway said. Father O’Shaughnessy died after a long illness April 19 in Hattiesburg, where he had resided for the past 18 months. He was 80. A native of Limerick, Ireland, Father O’Shaughnessy completed his ecclesiastical studies at St. Patrick’s College, Thurles, County Tipperary. He was ordained to priestly ministry June 8, 1968, at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Thurles and arrived in the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson on August 27, 1968. His first assignment was as an associate pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Pascagoula, then associate pastor of St. Michael Parish, Vicksburg, and St. John Parish in Oxford while he was continuing his graduate studies at the University of Mississippi, and then he was assigned to St. Alphonsus Parish in Ocean Springs. He served as pastor of St. Michael Parish, Biloxi; Sacred Heart Parish, Hattiesburg; St. ThomasAquinas, Hattiesburg; Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Lumberton; and St. Joseph Mission, Poplarville. He retired to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Long Beach in 2009, where he was of great assistance to pastor Father Louis Lohan. “His original intention was that he wouldn’t help anyone anywhere anymore,” said Father Lohan, who is now retired and lives in Ireland. “Then, he began to stick his nose into little bits of this, that and the other, and he really enjoyed it and got sucked back into full ministry, especially with the 7:30 a.m. Sunday Mass. They became his family. He really minis- tered to them and they ministered to him. He was a tremendous help to me. He would take a Mass for me any time during the week or, if I needed an extra hand during the weekend, he was there for me.” Father Lohan said he will miss his chats with Father O’Shaughnessy. “I’ll miss that you could sit down and have an honest conversation with him,” he said. “He didn’t hold back. He would tell you what he thought about something, and I could tell him what I thought, and he respected that. I really have missed that for the past three or four years because we haven’t been able to communicate or talk at all. My memory of him is that he had a huge, big heart. He was very goodhearted.” Paula Spears met Father O’Shaughnessy when he was pastor of St. Michael Parish in Biloxi. “When he moved to Long Beach and began celebrating Mass at St. Thomas, I had the honor of cutting his hair for many years,” said Spears. “Father Pat never met a stranger. He would stay a while and tell jokes and visit with each person in my salon. He got to know them and wanted to make sure all were well. Later on I had the privi- lege of serving on a committee, formed by Father Tommy, we called ‘Team Pat.’We met monthly for about five years. Our task was to be sure Father Pat was taken care of, that he had all he needed with regard to food and healthcare. Father Pat was a kind and gentle man, loved by many, who will miss him greatly. I considered him a very dear friend, as did most people he encountered.” A popular scripture verse often recited at funerals comes from the Second Letter of Timothy and reads, ‘I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.’ Father O’Shaughnessy embodied that verse through his priesthood and his sporting exploits. In addition to being an avid golfer - he scored a hole-in-one on a course in Ballybunion - and cyclist, Father O’Shaughnessy competed in the Boston Marathon and successfully completed an IronMan Triathlon in Hawaii on Oct. 14, 1989, with a time of 12 hours, 53 minutes and 11 seconds. SEE FATHER O’SHAUGHNESSY, PAGE 14 Father Pat O’Shaughnessy Photo/Charles Fallo