Father Tom Heneghan, parish priest of Corpus Christi church, died yesterday morning of a suspected heart attack. He was a much-loved community figure and, here on the Blog, one of his parishioners Cllr Rachel Heywood remembers him
Father Tom Heneghan, Parish Priest of Corpus Christi on Brixton Hill, who died suddenly of a suspected heart attack yesterday morning aged 63, was an extraordinary and rare man who radiated goodness and humanity. He had a powerful commitment to the social justice teachings of the Church and always ensured that it was attuned and responsive to the needs of the wider community through his work with young people, London Citizens and many others. Along with great flocks of parishioners, I loved Father Tom and I joined them in his non-judgemental church on most Sundays to benefit from his kindness, his wisdom and his gentle shepherding.
Last Saturday Father Tom and I made a regular visit to the family of Junior Nkwele, the young man who was murdered on the Loughborough Estate a few months ago. On the way, walking through Brixton, we talked about Ireland and books and politics and schools and a dozen other things. Then I watched Father Tom with Junior’s mother as he wrought a small miracle in bringing comfort, hope and a fleeting smile to a woman who had just buried her eldest son, and who has great fears for her others. He found answers for many of her practical worries, and assuaged her spiritual ones.
Father Tom’s death will leave a big gap in the complex and multiple communities of Brixton, many of whom gathered together in the very special place of worship, of refuge, and of community which he created. Children, teachers and parents were hugely distressed as Corpus Christi school closed yesterday afternoon. I will greatly miss his guidance and encouragement.
But we mustn’t forget that Father Tom has left an unshakeable legacy of generous spirituality which should long outlive him. I wish that he was still here, but i also trust that he will now rest in peace and stay in our thoughts and our prayers.
[UPDATED: 10/03/13 to remove first paragraph at request of Cllr Heywood - see comments below]