Fr Michael McCarthy died at St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds on the evening of 10th July 2018 after a long illness. He was seventy-two years of age. Born in West Cork, Ireland on 12th August 1945 he studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Carlow and was ordained at the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow on 7th June 1969. Three months later he arrived in the Leeds diocese to take up his first appointment, as Assistant Priest in St Malachy’s parish, Halifax. In 1973 he moved to St Clare’s, Bradford where he remained until 1982 when Bishop Wheeler appointed him to St Mary’s, Selby. From 1985-87 Fr McCarthy was on the staff of St Mary’s, Bradford.
In 1987-88 he undertook further studies in the USA, at Chicago and on his return to the Diocese he joined the staff of Ushaw College in County Durham as Spiritual Director. He left Ushaw in 1997 and Bishop Konstant appointed him as Parish Priest of St Joseph the Worker at Sherburn-in-Elmet, along with responsibility for the church of the Immaculate Conception at Scarthingwell. He was still in this post at the time of his death and he was a much loved pastor to both the Sherburn and Scarthingwell communities.
Alongside his ministry in the Leeds diocese and at Ushaw, over the years Fr McCarthy established an international reputation as a poet and author of children’s’ books. The latter have been translated into seventeen different languages. His first book of poems, “Birds’ Nests and Other Poems” was published in 1995 and won the Patrick Kavanagh Prize. In 2015 he produced a volume entitled “The Healing Station”, which is a collection of poetry arising out of a period he spent as Writer-in-Residence at a Dublin hospital, working alongside dementia patients and the people caring for them. The insights he gained from this experience also led to Fr McCarthy contributing to the “Growing Old Grace-fully” project on his return to the Diocese.
Fr Michael McCarthy will long be remembered as the priest-poet, as a man of deep spirituality and as a caring pastor who, in various capacities, gave almost fifty years of devoted service to the Diocese of Leeds.
May He Rest In Peace.