Farewell Bishop Séamus

Bishop Nulty incenses the altar at the beginning of the funeral mass of Seamus Freeman

Following the announcement of the death of Bishop Séamus Freeman on Saturday August 20th, the people of Kilkenny, Ossory and further afield were stunned, not only at the loss of a bishop, but at the passing of a kind and caring person. If ever the phrase ‘one of nature’s gentlemen’ was apt, then surely this was the case.

Preparations for Seamus’s funeral got underway and his body was received at St Mary’s Cathedral in Kilkenny on Wednesday night. The Rite of Reception was led by Bishop Denis Nulty (Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Ossory), who welcomed Bishop Freeman’s family: sisters Esther and Mary, brothers Tommy, John and Pat and their extended families. Bishop Nulty welcomed Archbishop Eamon Martin (Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland) who joined priests and religious from Ossory, members of the Pallottine Society and parishioners from various parishes of the diocese. He spoke of the three families of Bishop Freeman: The Freeman Family, The Pallottine Family and The Ossory family. Sacred music was provided by the Cathedral Choir under the direction of Mr John O’Neill. Housekeepers at Bishop Freeman’s house Mary Ryan and Bernadette Hunt and Painter and Decorator of the Cathedral Vincent O’Brien placed the bishop’s mitre, the bible and cross upon the coffin. Fr Donal McCarthy, SAC, a long time friend and co-worker with Bishop Freeman gave the reflection. The Prayer of Intercession was led by Rita Neary, Parish Secretary in St Mary’s Parish. At the end of the ceremony Fr Richard Scriven, Administrator of St Mary’s Cathedral, invited all to a cup of tea in the Chapter Room and to Night Prayer in the Cathedral at 9.30pm.


On Thursday parishioners from the four city parishes kept prayerful vigil in the cathedral where Bishop Freeman’s remains lay before the altar. During the day there was a steady stream of mourners who came to pray for their late bishop.

The prayers of Thursday concluded with Compline – Night Prayer of the Church – which was led by Fr Derry Murphy and Fr Eamon Monson, both members of the Pallottine Society. Fr Derry in welcoming all gave a special céad mile failte to the Superior General of the Pallottine Society, Fr Jacob Nampudakam , who had travelled from Rome.


On Friday at midday Bishop Nulty was the chief celebrant of the Requiem mass. He was joined by Archbishop Dermot Farrell (Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland), Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (Archbishop Emeritus of Dublin), Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly (Archbishop of Cashel and Emily), Bishop Eamonn Walsh (Archdiocese of Dublin), Bishop Alphonsus Cullinane (Bishop of Waterford and Lismore), Bishop Paul Dempsey (Bishop of Achonry), |Bishop William Crean (Bishop of Cloyne), Bishop Denis Brennan (Bishop Emeritus of Ferns) and priests and religious of the diocese of Ossory. The Superior General of the Pallottine Society, Fr Jacob Napudakam, was joined by members of the Pallottine society from Ireland. A large congregation joined Bishop Freeman’s family for the requiem mass, many from various parishes and committees of the diocese and members of the various religious orders in the diocese. Sacred music was again given by the Cathedral Choir under the direction of Mr John O’Neill.

The requiem mass began with a procession of symbols representing the seven sacraments carried by Michael Freeman, Frances Lennon, Sheila Walshe, Eddie Tallent, James and Roseanne Freeman, Fr Brian Griffin and Jimmy Cooke. Bishop Freeman’s brother Tommy read the readings and the psalm was sung by Ms Martina Burke. The Prayer of Intercession were read by friends and family members and the offertory gifts were brought to the altar by Ms Gemma Mulligan (Pastoral Co-ordinator for the Diocese of Ossory), Evana Freeman and Suzanne Freeman.


After communion and before the final prayers and commendation Fr Jacob Nampudakam spoke on behalf of the Pallottine Society speaking of how the Pallotine family remain eternally grateful to Mons. Freeman, one of the best known Pallottines in their history acknowledging that the Union of Catholic Apostolate owes so much to Mons. Séamus Freeman, for all his works in getting approval and as the first president. Bishop Freeman’s brother Pat, his sister Mary and niece Sinead spoke on behalf the family. Pat recalled their family life in Coolaghmore. Sinead spoke of the affection of the next generation for their uncle who always remembered them with cards and gifts. Bishop Freeman’s sister, Sr Mary Freeman RSM, read a special poem which gave an overview of Bishop Freemans’s life and ministry.

Bishop Freeman was laid to rest in the shadow of the Cathedral beside his predecessors Bishop Laurence Forristal (1981-2007), Bishop Peter Birch (1964-1981), Bishop Patrick Collier (1928-1964). Also buried in the cathedral grounds is Archbishop Thomas White a native of Durrow, a priest of the diocese of Ossory and former Papal Nuncio.

Bishop Séamus Freeman, SAC, the eldest of the eight children of James and Bridget Freeman, was born on 23 February 1944 in Clonlahy, parish of Mullinahone, Co. Tipperary, in the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly. At the age of eight months his family moved to Coolaghmore, parish of Callan, Co. Kilkenny, in the Diocese of Ossory. He attended Coolagh National School and Callan CBS. He completed Secondary School at Thurles CBS, as a postulant of the Pallottine Minor Seminary.

He entered the Society of Catholic Apostolate (Pallottines) in Thurles, Co. Tipperary and made his first Pallottine Consecration in 1965. He studied philosophy at the National University of Ireland, University Collage Dublin and Theology at St. Patrick’s College, Thurles. He was ordained a priest on 12th June 1971.

Subsequent to his ordination, he was sent to the Jesuit University of Detroit to pursue studies in psychology but was called to Rome not long afterwards to act as personal secretary to the Rector General of his Society, Fr. Nicholas Gorman. Two years later he returned to the USA and completed his studies at the Catholic University of America, Washington DC.

In 1975, he was appointed Rector of the Church of San Silvestro in Rome, “a Church with a long tradition of welcoming the stranger to Rome”, a Church designated by Pope Leo XIII (1885) to the pastoral care of English-speaking visitors and residents in Rome. During this time, in May 1978, he was elected a member of the Provincial Council of the Irish Province of the Society. In 1981 he returned to Ireland to take up the post of Rector and Director of Formation at the Pallottine College in Thurles.

While participating as delegate in the General Assembly of his community in 1983, Bishop Freeman was elected to the General Council of the Pallottines for a term of six years in Rome, a community dedicated to the pastoral and missionary role of all the baptized in the life and mission of the Church. In 1989 he was elected Vicar General of the Society. Barely three years later, in 1992, Fr. Martin Juritsch, the then Rector General of the Society, fell gravely ill and submitted his resignation. At the subsequent Extraordinary General Assembly, Bishop Freeman was elected to succeed him. He was re-elected for a second six-year term in 1998.

In 1994 he took part as an “auditor” in the 1994 Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme of “Consecrated Life and its Mission in the Church and in the World”. During his term as Rector General, on the 28th October 2003, the Pallottine Family, known as the “Union of Catholic Apostolate”, was declared a “Public Association of the Faithful, of Pontifical Right” by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. At an International Assembly of the UCA, held in Rome in December 2005, Bishop Freeman was unanimously re-elected President of the General Coordination Council for a term of three years.

At the conclusion of his second term as Rector General of the Society of Catholic Apostolate, he spent a year with the Irish Pallottine Community of San Silvestro in Rome after which, on 7th October 2004, he was appointed Parish Priest of the parish of St. Vincent Pallotti in Rome (13.000 people approx). That’s where he served the Church, striving, with the collaboration of two Pallottine priests from Brazil, to involve all the baptised in the life and mission of the Church of Jesus Christ.

He was appointed Bishop of Ossory by the Holy Father on 14th September 2007 and ordained Bishop on 2nd December 2007 in St Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. During his time in Ossory Bishop Séamus continued this work for the increased realisation of the mission of the lay faithful by implementing the Ossory Diocesan Pastoral Plan; a plan which still guides the Diocese today and through his work chairing the Episcopal Commission for Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development in Ireland. Bishop Séamus also worked tirelessly for the restoration of the beautiful St Mary’s Cathedral, Chapter House, Blessed Sacrament Chapel and surrounding campus. This work, which continues today, has served to enhance the faith life of the Diocese and remains as a fitting piece of the legacy that he leaves behind.



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