PARISHIONERS in Manchester have launched a campaign to stop the retirement of their much-loved priest, Father Paddy McMahon.
The congregation at St John’s Catholic Church in Chorlton were stunned to learn last month that Fr McMahon will be retiring from his role with the church later this year.
The 78-year-old, who hails from Monaghan but has served in parishes in and around Manchester since he arrived in England in 1968, is extremely popular at St John’s.
He has served as the parish priest there for 25 years and remains as active as ever among the community.
However, in November 2020 a meeting between Fr McMahon and the Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, who oversees the diocese which St John’s is located within, saw Fr McMahon asked to plan his retirement.
“It was a bit of a shock really” Fr McMahon told The Irish Post.
“I choose not to reveal that to my parish just before Christmas, so I waited a while,” he added.
He was informed that it should take place this year, and, as it stands, Fr McMahon is due to retire from active ministry in September 2021.
But when his congregation found that out in April, they decided something must be done.
A petition set up by parishioner Teresa Griffith, calling for Fr McMahon to be allowed to continue to serve as St John’s parish priest, has now received more than 2,000 signatures.
It states: “Father Paddy McMahon has been the parish priest at St John's in Chorlton for over twenty-five years.
“He really is a most exceptional person who is deeply loved by the people of his parish and beyond.
“Sadly, the Bishop of Salford is forcing him to retire despite the fact that he is fit and healthy with a deep desire to carry on his life's work.”
The many who have signed the petition have posted glowing tributes to the Irish priest, reflecting just how highly he is thought of in his parish.
“Father Mc is an amazing priest, with so much enthusiasm,” said Paula Morgan.
“He is one of life's true gentlemen.
“As a family we have known him for over 50 years and have gone to each of his parishes to attend his masses and services, I hope and pray Fr Mc will put off his retirement for a number of years yet.”
Michael Sheehan said: “I truly believe that Father McMahon is a remarkable man who lives the Gospel in a way that I find inspirational.”
He added: “Like most other Catholics in Britain, I am of Irish descent. My father came from Kerry and my mother from Monaghan.
“I am very grateful to Father McMahon for the way he has given appropriate cultural expression to our Irish heritage synthesising our faith and our culture.”
Pleading for the decision on Fr McMahon’s future to be overturned, Mary Corrigan said: “Fr Mac is the heart and soul of our parish.
“Huge numbers of all ages attend his masses in normal times for one reason - to listen to a non-judgemental priest read the finest mass you will hear anywhere.”
She added: “Please don't rip the heart out of our parish community. Fr Mac has given everything to this church.
“Please treat him with the same kindness, respect and compassion that he shows everyone else.
“Please allow the people's priest to stay where he belongs.”
When contacted by The Irish Post, the Diocese of Salford confirmed Fr McMahon’s impending retirement, which they describe as a “mutual” decision.
A spokesperson from the Diocese of Salford said: “Father McMahon, in line with Canon Law, offered his retirement to the Bishop at the age of 75 and it was agreed that, with regular review, he would continue his active ministry at that time.
“These reviews take into account the health and energy of a priest, their general wellbeing and the context of the parish community.
“With these considerations in mind, it was mutually agreed that Father McMahon would retire and we give thanks for his ministry over the years.”
For further information or to sign the petition click here.