Thomas (Tommy) Leahy was born on the 27th of July 1939 to John Leahy and his wife Nora (née Walsh) of Soloheadbeg, Donohill, Co Tipperary. He received his primary education at Greenane National School from 1944 to 1949 and at Newtown National School from 1949 to 1952. For his secondary education he studied at The Abbey CBS Secondary School, Tipperary Town, from 1952 to 1958. He joined St Patrick’s Missionary Society in September 1958 and completed the Spiritual Year in June 1959. He went to St Patrick’s College, Douglas, Cork, in September 1959 and attended University College Cork. He graduated with a BA degree in June 1962. He returned to Kiltegan for his theological studies and was ordained along with twelve classmates on the 10th of April, 1966 (Easter Sunday) in St Mary’s Church, Killamoat. The ordaining prelate was Bishop Patrick Cleary SSC, exiled Bishop of Nancheng, China.
After ordination Tommy was appointed to the Diocese of Eldoret, Kenya, where he ministered until 1969. He served at Nerkwo and Iten. After his first tour he was appointed to parish work in the Diocese of Brentwood near London and ministered in Gidea Park and in Chelmsford. In September 1972 he was appointed to Malawi and worked in Mzuzu Diocese. His first task was to learn the local language, Chitumbuka. He taught for many years in St Patrick’s Junior Seminary, Rumphi. He also worked in St Teresa’s Parish, Katete, St Paul’s Parish, Mzimba, St Peter’s Parish, Mzuzu, St Anne’s Parish, Chilumba and St Mary’s Parish, Karonga. In 1987 he was appointed to work in the nearby Diocese of Chipata in Zambia. There was an acute shortage of priests in Chipata at the time and Tommy answered the call. It meant learning a new language, Chinyanja. He worked in Chassa. He returned to Mzuzu Diocese in 1989. He was expelled from Malawi in 1992 for speaking out against the regime of the then President, Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Once again Tommy crossed over the Zambian border and continued his missionary work in Chipata Diocese, this time in Katete. After a sabbatical in 1994, which included the 30 Day Retreat at St Beuno’s in Wales, Tommy was appointed to Grenada in the West Indies. He worked in Tivoli, Carriacou and Grand Roy.
In 2004 he made the courageous decision to return to Mzuzu Diocese and remained there until 2009. He was based once again at St Patrick’s Junior Seminary, Rumphi. Ill-health forced his return to Ireland. He was based for a while in Kiltegan and helped in the Promotion Office. When his health improved he took up a pastoral appointment in Ballinaheglish, Co Roscommon (Elphin Diocese).
Tommy was known for his enthusiasm, zeal and sincerity. He helped many people along the road of life. He was a great friend of the local clergy in Malawi and was always looking out for ways in which he could help them. He was in regular contact with former parishioners and colleagues in Malawi. Tommy was an unapologetic supporter of his native county. He was very proud to have the Tipperary flag flying from his car. He was passionate about the GAA. He was a fine hurler in his youth and his love of hurling remained undiminished throughout his life. He was an extremely dedicated and committed missionary who was willing to serve wherever the need was greatest.
On the 6th of January 2018 Tommy fell seriously ill as he was about to begin Mass. He was immediately rushed to hospital. However, his condition never improved. He died on Wednesday, the 23rd of May.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan