Emeritus Bishop of Hamilton, Bishop Denis Browne said Fr Francis Joseph O’ Regan was “almost larger than life” figure with an “enthusiasm for the Word of God”.
Fr O’ Regan passed away on April 21, 2021. He was 87.
Bishop Browne presided over a requiem Mass for Fr O’ Regan on April 27, at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bishop Browne said Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe sent his (Bishop Lowe’s) apologies as Bishop Lowe had to attend a family funeral in the West Coast of the South Island.
At the beginning of the Requiem Mass, Fr Stuart Sellar, who was a classmate of Fr O’ Regan’s, placed a chalice and a paten on the casket. These were symbols of Fr O’ Regan’s ministry.
Fr O’ Regan’s nephew, John Joe Whooley, said Fr O’ Regan was “a much-loved member of our family and the wider Church family”.
“Celebrating his 60th anniversary a few years ago, he retired from parish life in 2005. He loved being a part of so many parishes and communities in New Zealand but in particular, the Waikato. Recently, Francis has told us about how much he loved being a priest and the life priesthood had given him,” Mr Whooley said.
“His outgoing and friendly personality ensured he was always making new friends. Whether it was smoking on the deck of a cruise ship or connecting with friends from the past. He had a genuine interest in what people had to say,” he added.
Bishop Browne, in his homily, said he enjoyed calling on Fr O’ Regan to read the Gospel because “whenever he proclaimed the Gospel, you could have that sense of great excitement. He had a great love for the Word of God. And whenever he proclaimed the Gospel, it was almost as though he was hearing it for the first time and being overawed by the wonder of the Word of God”.
The bishop also related a humourous anecdote about Fr O’ Regan.
“I remember being with him just a few short weeks ago. We were there (at the rest home in Henderson Valley). It was about the time that the evening meal was being served,” Bishop Browned recounted.
“One of the nurses came in and said, ‘Fr Frank, it’s time to go to the dining room for the evening meal.’ And Fr Frank, in his typical fashion . . . coughed a little bit and said, ‘I’m sorry, my eyes are playing up on me, are you the gorgeous one’?”
Bishop Browne said that those who know Fr O’Regan are saddened by his sudden death, but not the way he (Fr O’ Regan) lived his life.
“We gather today to say thank you to the Lord, not only for the gifts that God gave him but also for the way Fr Frank lived his life. He lived his ministry of priesthood as fully as he could. And he lived it to the full,” the bishop said.
Fr O’ Regan was buried at the Ohaupo Catholic Cemetery.