‘I’m here because of him’

By Fr Michael Mohally

Misyon OnlineThe author, from Cork city, Ireland, has spent many years working with Columban seminarians in both Ireland and the Philippines. He continues to do that in Quezon City.

The King’s Speech won four Oscars this year. It tells the true story of how Lionel Logue, an Australian, helped the future King George VI of England overcome a bad stammer. Fr Mohally here tells a story about an Irish priest who helped many, none of them kings and many of them very poor, overcome speech difficulties. In the incident reported here, nobody could have foreseen the consequences, not only in Ireland but in Fiji and the Philippines.

I was confined to bed in the infirmary of our headquarters in Manila and, to keep myself occupied, decided to view a BBC television documentary, first shown on 17 January 1961, about a beloved priest of my native Diocese of Cork, Ireland, Father James Christopher (Christy) O’Flynn. Fr O’Flynn was 80 years old when the documentary was made.

He was famous for helping people overcome speech impediments such as stuttering and introducing young people to Shakespeare through a youth club he had in a loft over a warehouse in his parish.

As I was viewing the documentary an older Columban, who was also confined next door to me in the infirmary section, came to visit me, Fr Paddy Hurley. He is 86 years old and has spent 61 years in the Philippines. As Father Paddy watched the documentary with me he asked ‘Who’s he?’ referring to the priest on the screen. I replied that he was Fr O’Flynn and asked if he had ever met him. He replied, ‘I never met him but I’m here because of him’.

Father Paddy then told me his story.

His father was a young teacher in a village in West Cork, one of the most scenic areas in Ireland. He had difficulty with his voice and had gone to London twice to have it treated, but in vain. He decided to resign his position as a teacher and emigrate to Australia. He went to the village of Durros to tender his resignation to the parish priest and then intended to carry on to the town of Bantry to buy his ticket to Australia. As it happened, the young Fr O’Flynn was visiting the parish priest and asked Father Paddy’s father not to resign and assured him that he would sort out his voice problem within a week. He did.

Mr Hurley continued teaching. He met and courted Father Paddy’s mother. They married and had ten children, three of whom became Columban missionary priests and a daughter who became a Columban missionary Sister.

Mystery is truly an aspect of our lives. 9 January 2011

There’s a short biographical note on the website of the Diocese of Cork and Ross.


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