The Catholic Parish of
Blessed John Henry Newman

 Covering most of East Leeds

Canon Denis Tangney RIP

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An extract from the Homily given by Canon John Nunan at the Requiem Mass for Canon Tangney.

‘I am the Good Shepherd, I know my own, my own know me’

Thank you for coming today to pray for the repose of Canon Tangney’s Soul. Denis knew himself, he knew his strengths and his weaknesses. He knew that he was a sinner like the rest of us, standing in the need of God’s mercy. I would like to reflect for a few moments on his life as a priest.

Denis Tangney was ordained priest at All Hallows, Dublin on 23rd June 1946. It was a different world and a different Church. There has been a lot of change and Denis adapted very well.

During the Ordination ceremony the Bishop addressed Denis with these words:

‘My son, you must apply your energies to the duty of teaching,
in the name of Christ the chief teacher.
Share with mankind the word of God you have received, with joy.
Meditate on the Word of God.
Put into practice what you teach.
Let the example of your life attract followers for Christ,
so that in word and action you may build up the house which is God’s Church.’


That is the promise Denis made, that was the promise he lived to the best of his ability. Denis was a man of considerable ability. We give thanks for his priesthood and the example of his life. His zeal was the same on 15th February 2013 when he died as it was on the 23rd June 1946 when he was ordained priest.

‘Priests are consecrated to:
Preach the Gospel, Shepherd the Faithful, and to Celebrate Divine
Worship as priests of the New Covenant.
They exercise their function most of all in the Eucharistic Liturgy.
There, acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming the mystery, they
join the offering of the Faithful, to the sacrifice of their head’.


The first duty of a Priest is to preach the Gospel


Denis was a fine preacher, his sermons touched people’s lives. Denis was in touch with his own humanity and his own weakness. He understood his own struggles and people’s struggles. He always prepared his sermons. Pat Wall reminded us last night that Denis was a man of prayer. He meditated on the Scriptures, he always had a book by his side. The duty of the preacher is to break the Word and to apply it. Everyone would agree that he performed his first duty as a priest very well.

To be a Shepherd of the flock


A Shepherd needs to know his flock. Denis knew the name of every man, woman and child in his Parish. House Visiting was an absolute priority despite all the other calls on his time. That is how he got to know the people. Denis had an ear to listen, a heart to understand, and a wise head. I heard him described as a Rock to lean on in times of trouble. I think it is true to say that you cannot effectively minister to people you do not know. We priests must somehow free ourselves of administration so that we can know our people and they can know us.

To Celebrate Divine Worship


The Liturgy was very dear to him. He prepared his liturgies and celebrated the Liturgy in a meaningful and prayerful way. Denis was Diocesan Master of Ceremonies before Vatican II. He organised Pontifical High Masses and major Diocesan Liturgical events. In the wake of Vatican II he was asked by Bishop Dwyer to introduce the Decree on the Liturgy to the priests of the Diocese. He arranged meetings to help the clergy to understand and implement Decree on the Liturgy. He re-ordered this Church with great imagination and care. He would have liked to have built a new one, that was not to be for various reasons.

The priest is also to teach. ‘My Son you must apply your energies to teaching in the name of Christ the chief teacher’. Apart from his preaching and sacramental preparation, Denis did little formal teaching. However, Catholic Education was dear to his heart. He put an enormous amount of energy into Education in Leeds. Even before he was appointed to St. Theresa’s there were school problems in the East Leeds area. Denis accepted the challenge. The problems almost cost him his health, it would have broken a lesser man. The function of a Parish Priest is to be the centre of unity in a parish and despite all sectional interests, to promote the common good. He put an enormous amount of time and energy into School work.

Retirement did not come easy to Canon Tangney. Denis worked all day everyday. His only relaxation was the Rotary Club every Tuesday. Some would see that as a shortcoming, but Denis was brought up in the school that said you give everything for the Gospel. That is what he did. At the age of 77, despite his failing health, he still felt that he had more to give and that he could have gone on for a few more years. In retirement he still made an important contribution. He gave a memorable sermon on the occasion of the closing of St. Patrick’s, which was his first appointment.

On his 90th Birthday he said all he wanted to say was ‘Laudetur Jesus Christus – Praise be Jesus Christ’.

I wish to thank the many who supported him in his retirement. I would like to thank all those parishioners, friends and fellow clergy, who supported him especially in his final years. Among them the Little Sisters have a particular place.

Denis Tangney was born 4th July 1922 at Listry, near Killarney, Co Kerry, the 10th of 11 children of Patrick and Catherine Tangney. He was educated at Faha Primary School, St. Brendan’s, Killarney and All Hallows, Dublin. His family willingly gave him to work as a priest in our Diocese, and we thank them for that gift, as we greet members of his family who are with us today.

The diocese of Kerry has given Leeds many wonderful priests. That generation of priests and people left a great legacy. Our challenge is to respect the tradition they passed on to us, to build on it in a way that is appropriate for our time.

Denis understood precisely what tradition is about. He lived tradition in its true meaning. He was not a traditionalist. He never confused the essence with the non essentials. He was open to the Spirit wherever it led. He lived the faith that was passed on to him. He lived it in the time and circumstances in which he found himself.

You all have your own memories. Some stood in awe of him, some might not always have agreed with him, but everyone respected him for his integrity and commitment. He certainly did his best. We thank God for him. We pray that God will reward him for his goodness and kindness and forgive him for his sins.

Eternal rest give unto him O Lord. May perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.



Published Sun 24th Mar 2013 12:26:32

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