An obituary for Canon Patrick Sammon

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Fr Martin Boland, Dean of Brentwood Cathedral, writes:

Canon Patrick Sammon

23 August 1948 – 16 September 2022

There is a long tradition of energetic priests with a visionary spark who are recognised for their building of churches, schools and parish centres. After forty-nine years of priestly ministry, Fr Patrick Sammon takes his place amongst this prestigious group. While he certainly leaves a legacy in stone and glass throughout the Diocese of Brentwood, he will be principally remembered as a builder of communities of faith. Inspired by the insights of the Second Vatican Council, he came to recognise the importance of “community” as one of the key ways by which people give glory of God. It was no accident that one of his favourite aphorisms was “we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!”

Fr Pat’s commitment to building communities of Paschal hope was evident in the parishes he served in as an assistant priest and respectively at St Vincent de Paul, Becontree, Most Holy Redeemer, Billericay, Our Lady & St. George, Walthamstow and Our Lady of Lourdes, Wanstead as their parish priest. His attentiveness and care when celebrating the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, drew people into a closer relationship with God. At the same time, his resolve in applying the riches of the liturgical renewal and ensuring the participation of the laity at every level of parish life gave a particular dynamism to his ministry. But there were also his many “hidden” acts of pastoral care, spiritual guidance and wise counsel that countless numbers of people now recall with profound gratitude.

The gifts and vision he brought to the parishes he served were also put at the service of the whole Diocese. As Diocesan Youth Officer he laid enduring foundations for the Youth Service that has nurtured the faith of young people across the decades and he proved a key figure in the establishment of the annual Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage. In his role as Vocations Director, he helped men to discern their vocation and supported them on their journey towards priesthood. His acute mind, good humour and firm hand as a chairman greatly contributed to the Diocesan Child Protection Committee, Diocesan Finance Board and roles as a Diocesan Trustee and as Provost of the Cathedral Chapter.

Although his priestly life was spent on “mission” in England, his identity was undoubtedly shaped by County Mayo, Ireland, the place of his birth where he grew up as the eldest of five surviving siblings and another sister who died in infancy. It was at St Patrick’s Church, Louisburgh on 12 June 1973 that he was ordained by Bishop Patrick Casey and it is in County Mayo that his mortal remains are now buried alongside his parents, John and Janie Sammon. The landscape, traditions and the faith of his family were the rich seedbed of Fr Pat’s character and priesthood.

He was deeply cultured with a particular love of Irish literature and lays claim to being one of the few priests to have actually read James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. His appreciation of classical music and art were to influence his sensitivity to the beauty of the liturgy. His theological reading was broad and rich; an article or spiritual insight would often trigger in him new approaches and pastoral initiatives. Yet only those closest to him would have been aware of such cultural influences or intellectual depths. As a priest he was readily available and at the service of others, yet as a man his privacy was something that he guarded as that inner sanctuary where he stood alone before God.

As his health deteriorated and in more melancholy moments, he would openly question the value of all his efforts. He need not have done. The value was, in the words of W. B. Yeats, that he was “blesséd and could bless”.  So many people who experienced his spiritual and pastoral care knew him as a blessing from God. These Easter people now pray, Suaimhneas Síoraí tabhair do a Thiarna. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.

Picture by Graham Hillman

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