Fr Noel O Connor – A True Missionary of Our Time
By: Rose Ngaruiya
A true Missionary is a disciple first. (Pope Francis).
To be a Missionary is to be a true disciple, leaving your own home, people and country to be a disciple. Fr Noel took the ownership of Jesus’ message. He left all that behind and followed that call to go out to the ends of the world and bring the good news to the people, to those who were hungry for the word of God. For Fr Noel, learning the local language and culture brought him close to the people and to the heart of the community which he served and loved with humility and gratitude. His gift of mastering the Swahili language brought him home to the people of East Africa in Kenya and Tanzania where he lived and worked. He became “one of us”. It was not without many challenges, but he endured it all.
He found Christ in the good and the bad. Fr Noel embraced poverty and lived it totally but his heart was rich and full of goodness which was always admired by those around him. Fr Noel had the heart of helping those marginalised and those physically challenged. He showed them that they matter and that they were important to him and to God. He gave them hope and new life. He set up and built a place for them in Masaka, Uganda, and I am happy that Fr Noel was able to finish it and visited the place. He also helped a particular man in Dagorreti Corner with an electric wheelchair. Unfortunately this gentleman passed away but Fr Noel took on the task of making sure his children were able to go to school and he did this from his heart. “ Thank you Fr Noel”.
Such was the heart Fr Noel had. Justice was a big thing in Fr Noel’s belief. He would fight for it, especially for those oppressed, and he would be there for them to the end. Being a disciple is to be there for those in need. His presence meant so much to many. In December 2007 and January 2008 there were people affected by post-election violence in Kenya. Fr Noel was able to resettle one particular family as they had lost everything they had. He gave them shelter and a new life. The family today is grateful to Fr Noel for his kindness and goodness to them. Though Fr Noel has gone to be with the Lord, his heart and spirit will live with this family forever, and his sense of humour will never be forgotten.
Fr Noel’s spiritual life touched many people. He was there for the sick and the dying and for their families. As Fr Noel spoke the local language so well, his message was received with joy and gratitude. His prayer life helped him remain strong and open to challenges.
His prayer life was his CENTRE, where he drew his strength, hope, grace and confidence. He would trust that inner voice deep within. He believed in being open, being truthful, and that truth will set one free. Quiet time was important to him, where he could connect with nature. Fr Noel was always grateful for little or big things. He will be missed greatly and we thank him for his time here on earth, for his work and his love.
Rest in peace, Fr Noel, and Thank You for being “You”.
Rose Ngaruiya is a friend of the Pallottines in Kenya.