The death took place on January 9 this year of Fr Daniel M. Baragry, a Columban missionary and native of Tipperary town.
In a homily at his Requiem Mass, his nephew Fr Daniel Baragry CSsR, the newly-elected Provincial of the Dublin Province of the Redemptorists, paid tribute to his remarkable missionary work.
He said it was a sad day as they came to bury Dan; yet it is also an opportunity for the two pillars of his life, family (Baragry/McDonald) and Society (Columbans) to celebrate and give thanks for his life.
Dan was born in Tipperary town on May 11th 1930, the second eldest of four brothers, one of who, Frank, was also a Columban. The Baragry boys were into boxing in their youth and would have had very happy memories of summers spent with relatives in Wicklow (Coolnarrig and Baltinglass). He was educated by the Christian Brothers at the Abbey school in Tipperary.
“At an early age Dan decided that he wanted to be a priest and surprisingly to be a Columban. I say surprisingly because for me one of the great mysteries of Dan’s life is why or how he became a Columban – after all he had an uncle and a granduncle who were Redemptorists at the time! I asked Dan once what the reaction of the family was when he told them the news and he admitted that his mother sent him into Mount St. Alphonsus in Limerick to talk to a Redemptorist about his vocation – probably hoping that they would “sort him out”. In Limerick Dan met a wise old Redemptorist who having listened to his story told him that if he really wanted to be a Missioner then he would not recommend that he join the Redemptorists because it could not be guaranteed that he would end up being sent on the foreign missions. Dan I am sure happy made his way home to Tipperary to share the “good” news.
“I mention this little incident because I believe it’s important if you are to really know and understand Dan Baragry – he was at heart a Missioner, it is what shaped his life and his values, attitudes and outlook toward life. He was a hard working, totally committed Missioner. Its what brought him to Dalgan in 1948 where he was ordained just over 60 years ago in 1954; what brought him to the Philippines and what makes sense of his 45 years of service there in Mindanao and Cebu.
In the Philippines Dan spent 35 years in Parish Ministry, very much a time and mission of activity in his life. He had 11 major assignments over that period and what strikes me about this time in Dan’s life is his sense of availability – he never took the easy option, always the more demanding and gave himself fully to it.
Two of those parish appointments stand out for me; Anakan was a mountain parish, with 80 communities which Dan visited regularly by motor bike and on foot; Dan spent eight years here and was extremely happy. Tandag was a new area taken on by the Columbans in the early 80s. Dan was the first to volunteer and was assigned to Marihatag where his house was built on the beach, Dan built a veranda on to the house which he claimed “saved my sanity” as he listened to the waves of the Pacific rolling in.
When he finished with parish ministry Dan returned to the Philippines and moving to Cebu to began a ministry in the psychiatric unit of Southern Islands Hospital – it was very much a mission and ministry of presence – where in some sense he saw or experienced few results and yet Dan gave himself fully to the situation and patients there working to improve the quality of their lives and like any good Missioner strove to leave something behind him to continue and consolidate this ministry, which he did by inviting and facilitating a group of Sisters to continue the work”.
Fr Bargary then returned home to retirement in Dalgan.
And his newphew added - “The Missioner’s journey has finally come to an end – Dan is at rest and at peace. I believe that there is always a restlessness in the heart of a Missioner – he or she can identify with and make their own the words of St. Augustine “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you O Lord.” A Missioner is always to an extent “a stranger in a strange land.” In your youth you leave your own country and your father’s house and you follow a call often to the far side of the world where you give yourself totally to a new people but where to some extent you always remain “a stranger” because of the colour of your skin, the culture or as in the case of the Philippines your big nose!! When you finally return home you find that things have changed – it’s good to be home but you continue to feel a stranger, without deep roots, and anyway your heart is miles ways with a people that you have grown to love”.