Obituary : Fr. Cathal Butler C.P., R.I.P.
On the morning of Monday 22nd August 2005 Fr. Cathal passed to his reward in Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross Dublin. Just over a year before he had suddenly become ill and was diagnosed with caner. For the next year his cancer responded well to treatment and the prognosis was hopeful. Then in May of 2005 he became unwell and it was idscovered that the cancer had broke out in his brain. His condition deteriorated and in August he was admitted to Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross. On Sunday morning, 21st August, received Holy Communion. Later that day his condition deteriorated and Cathal died peacefully on the Monday morning.
Born Brendan Butler on April 6th, 1935 in Dublin he was the youngest of five children. He joined the Passionists at The Graan, Enniskillen, and was professed on July 16th 1958. He completed his priestly studies in St. Michael's Retreat, Dankeith and later at St. Paul's Retreat, Mount Argus. Ordained on December 21st 1963 he was appointed to rome to study Canon Law. Two years later on 2nd November 1966 Fr. Cathal arrived in Botswana where he was to spend the rest of his priestly life.
As a student he was a great organiser. A talent he put to good use for the rest of his life. He took charge of the student football team. He was the chief tactician complete with blackboard, almost a man before his time. Sometimes someone might challenge 'coach' and Cathal would say - 'Who is in charge here?'
In those days the introduction to Missionary life was for the new arrivals to fill in for other priest who were going home on holiday. Thus in his first year Cathal worked in Serowe and Francestown and later moved to Ramoutswa to study the language under Fr. Terence C.P. Over the next three years he was to work in Palapye, Lobatse, Ramoutswa and Morwa. The first five years of the Seventies were spent in Lobatse and the second five in Mochudi. Cathal came home for holidays in 1982 and on his return was to asked to start a new mission at Jwaneng.
growth and development of Botswana after Independence in 1966 was fuelled
by mining and in particular the discovery of diamonds in the country.
In 1967 the first diamonds were found in the north of the country at Orapa.
In the seventies prospecting began in the south and diamonds were found
near the village of Jwana, meaning 'small stones', about 200 kilometres
into the desert from Gaborone. This site was developed and Jwaneng mine
and town were founded.
Fr. Cathal celebrated Sunday mass and his congregation grew. By 1986 he and the parishioners had built a priest's house and plans were made for a Church-with-Community Hall. The basic design was taken from Fr. Alban's Church in Selebi-Phikwe another mining town. Building began and the Church was officially opened in August 1987. It was named 'Lapa La Lerato' meaning 'Family of Love'. The Building is triangular in shape with the apex of the triangle forming the altar area. Sliding doors cut this area off from the other part of the triangle which then becomes a community hall. Here parish functions are celebrated and the hall is often rented out for various functions and generates income for the Church.
While looking after the parish of Jwaneng Fr. Cathal was also involved in the Marriage Tribunal. In the late seventies he had trained for the job and it was first planned that it be centred in the new parish of Broadhurst in Gaborone. This fell through as the house was not ready in time. Then attempts were made to site it in Kgale but the rondavels selected for the office were not available. By 1983 Fr. Cathal was beginning the mission in Jwaneng and the Office of the Marriage Tribunal was sited in his house. Here he carried out the work for many years.
Cathal was a very private person and for most of his life he lived alone
and it could be a very lonely life. He loved to have people come and visit
him and above all Cathal was a marvellous host. He also made a point of
visiting his fellow priests as often as he could. He loved a game of cards
and often on a Sunday night we would gather together at Kgali or some
other mission for a game.
Cathal had a deep sense of mission. he built chucrches and residences but it was in building up the Christian community and handing on the faith that he excelled. When he left Jwaneng last year, he left behind him a vibrant, thriving church. Indeed a fitting testament to his missionary and apostolic zeal. He put his heart and soul into that place. When he left Jwaneng I think he left a little bit of himself behind. I would venture to say that he left there quite a large part of himself.
Cathal was also a very compassionate man. He was devoted to the poor and the sick. It has been often said that Cathal would not let his left hand know what is right hand was doing. This was true when it came to works of charity. Very few knew how much he helped the poor, the families he fed and clothed, the school fees and rent he paid. He was above all devoted to the sick. Any person in hospital, no matter what the distance, was sure of a visit from Cathal. He championed the cause of the underdog and the downtrodden. Sometimes at a cost to himself. When he felt someone was wronged, he always did his best to put it right.
The funeral of Fr. Cathal took place on Wednesday 24th August in St. Paul's Church, Mount Argus and he was laid to rest in the adjoining Passionist Community Cemetery.
his gentle and gracious soul rest in the peace of the Lord.