A Belfast-born priest whose body was recovered from a river following a boating accident was the pride of his community, those who knew him have said.
Fr Stephen Rooney died following last Sunday’s tragedy on the Detroit River in the US.
He was a priest in the US for the last 30 years and was parish priest of St Joseph’s Parish in Trenton in the Diocese of Detroit.
He regularly returned home to Short Strand in Belfast for family visits.
Senator Niall O Donnghaile said: “When I met him he was always very warm, always very thoughtful and humorous but also still very much a Short Strand and a Belfast man at heart no matter how long he spent away.”
He was a regular visitor home, Mr O Donnghaile said.
“He always seemed very comfortable and contented when he came back home.”
A vigil was previously held in the Short Strand area of Belfast to support the Rooney family as they awaited news from the US.
Mr O Donnghaile said the clergyman’s relatives and local community was bereft.
“They were very proud of his achievements and work in life and just really devastated.”
He added: “The Short Strand community is very proud of Fr Stephen and proud of the impact he had on so many others.
“Fr Stephen may have left the Short Strand to fulfil his vocation but the Short Strand never left him.
“Like so many others across Belfast and throughout Ireland, as well as in Detroit, Michigan and the United States, we are devastated by the tragic loss of Fr Stephen Rooney.”
Picture: Local authorities in Detroit search the Detroit River for two missing passengers on 18th August 2020, after a boating accident two days earlier. Authorities have found the body of Robert Chiles, a member of St Joseph Catholic Parish in Trenton, Mich., and Fr Stephen Rooney, St Joseph’s parish priest. (CNS photo/Kirthmon F. Dozier, USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters).