It brought to a sad end a life totally dedicated to the priesthood. The manner of his death was ironic in the sense that he always came across as indestructible, unaffected by the ups and downs of priestly life.
Michael was a native of Co. Cork and was ordained in St Patrick's College, Carlow, in 1955, for the Diocese of Galloway.
He served as assistant priest in Our Lady of Lourdes and St Patrick, The Birnie Knowe near Auchinleck, St Margaret's, Ayr, and Our Lady Star of the Sea, Saltcoats. He was appointed parish priest of St Andrew and Cuthbert, Kirkcubright in 1964 and, in 1980, St Peter-in-Chains, Ardrossan.
He was a man of many talents. He loved reading and was very knowledgeable on many aspects of life within and outwith the Church.
He had a particular love of Canon Law and kept himself up to date on any developments in this area, attending the Canon Law societies' annual conferences in Britain and America.
Politics was in Michael's blood. He was a cousin of Jack Lynch, die Fianna Fail politician who became Taoiseach in the 1960s. This trait showed itself in Michael, who involved himself in many areas of public life. He was chairman of Cunninghame Housing Association. His work with the homeless people was outstanding. He played a key part in the setting up of Galloway Training which supported the needs of local young people. The organisation continues to this day. He was the Church's representative on the education committee of Strathclyde for more than a decade. It was a role he loved.
Michael was a man who didn't suffer fools gladly. He spoke his mind and didn't care very much whether people agreed with him or not. He loved an argument and wasn't easily put down. Behind it all, there was a genuineness and passion for what he thought was right.
There was also a more gentle side to him. As his next door neighbour in St Mary's, Saltcoats, I got to know Michael quite well, probably better than most. We used to go out for dinner at regular intervals and it was during these quiet times of relaxation that I got to know the 'real' Michael Lynch.
From a rather harsh exterior, I discovered a man who was shy, distant, strong-willed, thoughtful, caring, very generous. Let me put it this way: if I was in trouble or in any kind of need, Michael would have been an outstanding friend. He was such a friend, in his own quiet way, to many, many people.
He was totally devoted to his priesthood and to the people he served in the parishes where he worked. Indeed his helping hand reached out far beyond the boundaries of his parish and embraced people of all denominations, and none.
Bishop John Cunningham was the principal celebrant at his funeral Mass surrounded by the priests of Galloway Diocese and from many other places. The congregation was packed to overflowing.
To quote St Ambrose,
'Those who have died in grace go no further from us than God, and God is very
near'. May Michael enjoy the fullness of life with God whom he served so well
The obituary below is from the Scottish Catholic Observer, 9 July 2004.
A parish community gathered today to celebrate the life of tragic priest Fr Michael Lynch who died following a fire at his parish house. Priests and laity from throughout the Diocese of Galloway gathered with their Bishop, the Rt Rev John Cunningham, and the parishioners of St Peter in Chains, Ardrossan, for the funeral Mass. Fr Lynch died after a fire broke out shorty after 4am in the parish house on South Crescent Road last Friday morning. The death, which is not being treated as suspicious by the investigating police officers, has rocked the local community in Ardrossan. A well-known figure in the area, the 74 year-old priest had served in Ardrossan since 1980 following the death of the previous parish priest, Canon Fisher. Investigations are still ongoing into the blaze, which has caused extensive damage to the house, but did not harm the church building. A spokesperson for Strathclyde Police commented: "We are not treating the incident as suspicious." A spokesperson for Ardrossan Fire Brigade added: "The cause of fire will not be published until after a full investigation." This week the newly appointed Bishop Cunningham expressed his sadness at the news and paid tribute to a priest who has tirelessly served the diocese since his ordination on June 5, 1955. "The sudden death of Fr Michael Lynch in such tragic circumstances came as a great shock to me personally" said Bishop Cunningham. "Although I have been Bishop of Galloway for just a few weeks, I have known Fr Lynch for 27 years. My heart goes out to his family and friends and to the parishioners of St Peter's, Ardrossan, whom he has served as parish priest for some 25 years. "I will of course be remembering the Lynch Family and the people of St Peter's in my prayers." In a ministry spanning five decades, Fr Lynch served in a number of parishes throughout the diocese. After his ordination, following studies at St Patrick's College in Carlow, Eire, he travelled to Scotland serving in five parishes and enjoying a year's involvement with the Catholic Mission Society in London. Fr Lynch was instrumental in building the Church of the Resurrection in Gatehouse of Fleet, Kirkcudbrightshire, which opened in November 1971. After today's funeral Mass, Fr Lynch's remains were laid to rest in the local cemetery in Ardrossan.
The tribute below is from Father Eddie McGhee's column in the Scottish Catholic Observer, 9 July 2004.
The community that is the three towns of Stevenston, Saltcoats, and Ardrossan has been devastated by the death, in a house fire, of Fr. Michael Lynch, parish priest of St Peter's, Ardrossan. Michael had been in this area for a significant part of his 49-year ministry. He was parish priest in Ardrossan from 1979 and before that had spent some years, as assistant priest in St Mary's Saltcoats. Significantly, it is not just the Catholic community that mourns his death, but the whole community. Michael was nothing, if not involved, in all that was happening in the area. You would need an extra set of hands to keep fingers in all of the pies that Michael had simmering away! Last Friday's tragedy means that we must all re-focus as we face the future. As I drove past the parish house the signs of the fire were all too obvious. Gaping, blackened windows told the story. The railings along the outside of the house of the church and house were festooned with flowers, the silent expression of grief and sorrow. These are the tributes of the local community, their immediate response to the tragedy of Fr. Michael's death. I looked and then I smiled! Michael was rightly proud of the appearance of St Peter's. He would not have been amused at the "garlanding"! Michael was always uniquely himself. We often disagreed, but agreed to disagree! His unique contribution to the life of the Church in the Diocese and in the country will be missed. These last few weeks the scriptures have been inviting us to focus on discipleship and what it means for each of us. In one way or another we are all involved in the building of God's Kingdom as soon as we are baptised. There are some of us who go into more formal ministry -the priesthood - but within the Church there is all manner of opportunity for us to involve ourselves by offering our gifts and talents in our communities. The death, however tragic, of any parish priest, and in this case of Fr. Michael Lynch does not mean that the community of St. Peter's grinds to a halt. The challenge is to deal with the grief and sense of loss but to move on. This week the Gospel tells the very familiar story of "The Good Samaritan". Of all of the stories that are told in the gospels this is one of the most familiar. What does it mean for us? A priest saw the wounded man and walked by on the other side. We -can easily blame the priest but he had a good excuse for passing by. He was on his way to minister in the Temple and if he had touched the man who was covered in blood he would have become ritually unclean and therefore unable to exercise his ministry. A good excuse but is it good enough? The same with the Levite! Same reason same excuse! Notionally they were both doing God's work. The people waiting at the temple would have been mightily inconvenienced had they been unable to perform their duties. Jesus is, of course, asking us to look again at how we define God's work. He is telling us simple that not even God can be used as an excuse for not doing what must be done.When it comes to finding excuses for not doing things that we should we are all experts! We like life to flow the way that we want and we like things to progress on our terms. Let's face it none of us likes to be inconvenienced. Although we may welcome change generally we only welcome it in moderation. We prefer change for others because we are secure, generally, in our own little world. I think it was Mark Twain who said, "Invest in land, they're not making any more!" For those of us who are baptised we are invited to invest in the Kingdom - they're not writing any more Gospels. It is not going to get any easier. No one is going to come along and say we don't need to work to build God's kingdom any more. No matter how difficult the circumstances this is the challenge that is placed before all of us.
The commemoration below, by Father Patrick Lawson, Parish Priest of Saint Palladius' Church, Dalry, was published in the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald of 30 July 2004.
A special Mass commemorating the life and work of Ardrossan's parish priest Fr Michael Lynch takes place at his former charge, St Peter in Chains, Church, tonight (Friday) at 7pm. Fr Patrick Lawson of St Palladius' Church, Dairy, has contributed a "month's mind" for Fr Lynch, who died in a fire at his parish house at the beginning of July, for this week's Herald. Fr Lawson writes:
Four weeks after the tragic death of Fr Michael Lynch his friends, parishioners and colleagues continue to feel numb and shocked and many have expressed a deep sense of personal loss. His month's mind is an opportunity for all of us to call to mind the characteristics which shaped this very special priest and to recall the many demonstrations of care and love which were part of his daily life. "In attempting to describe the life and work of such a visionary priest many people were left feeling 'what do you say when words are not enough?' No words can adequately express the contribution that Fr Michael Lynch made to the lives of so many people. Fr Michael loved the written word with much of his reading focused on Canon Law and Catholic Education. He always read the latest publications and was fascinated by the work of the Catholic Church in the United States and Australia. Michael loved a good debate. As many have said, he would often agree to differ but always showed a respect for other people's views. However, his academic pursuits and thirst for knowledge never altered the focus of his priesthood and those who knew him well will testify mat he was a deeply pastoral man who took very seriously his ministry to the marginalized in the communities in which he served. The words of the hymn 'Lord you have come to the seashore' which was sung at Fr Lynch's Requiem Mass seemed particularly appropriate to this aspect of his vocation particularly the words, 'Help me spend myself in seeking the lost'. Those who were lost on life's journey found in Fr Michael a compassionate friend and they will miss him sorely. Michael was very aware of the struggles and difficulties that life throws at all of us and often referred to the Theology of the Cross. He identified with the suffering and struggles of others and regularly quoted lines from 'The Hound of Heaven' by Francis Thompson, sharing with others a conviction that no matter what we do, the reality of everyone's life is that it is not complete until we rest in God's arms. Fr Michael was also very active across Scotland, serving on a range of committees and working groups. Many of these groups were involved in promoting Catholic Education, an issue which was very close to his heart. This year the theme chosen for Catholic Education Week was 'Be like Shining Stars' and is based on the promise made by the prophet Daniel: 'Those who teach virtues unto others shall shine like the stars of heaven forever'. The prophet Daniel was not just thinking of those who teach as a career but of all those who give example to others of how to live a good life. When we reflect on the life of Fr Michael Lynch we realise that he had so many star qualities. Like the stars in the sky, he was a guiding light for so may. Like the stars in the sky, he was a source of energy and often worked into the early hours of the morning engaging in professional development before it became the trend. Let us hold Fr Michael Lynch in prayerful and grateful remembrance. In reflecting upon Michael's life we recall the very apt words of the scripture: 'Happy are those who die in the Lord. Now they can rest from their labours, since their good deeds go with them.' Requiescant in Pace.