Hundreds expected at funeral of popular priest

Hundreds of people are expected to pay their last respects to Fr Michael Fraher at his funeral on Friday.
Hundreds of people are expected to pay their last respects to Fr Michael Fraher at his funeral on Friday.
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A Burnley church will be packed to capacity on Friday as mourners gather to say goodbye to a much loved priest who died just before Christmas at the age of 82.

A requiem mass and funeral for Fr Michael Fraher will be held at St. Mary Magdalene's at 1pm followed by burial at Burnley Cemetery.

A popular and well loved priest, Fr Fraher first came to the parish of St Mary Magdalene's in 1966 as assistant priest. He was appointed as the parish priest in 1977 and remained there until his retirement in 2008.

During that time he saw many changes, including the demolition of the old St Mary Magdalene's Church in 1980, to make way for the new M65 motorway.

With compensation money from the highways authority two new churches were built.

When the new St Mary Magdalene's was built in Wellfield Drive, Ightenhill to the north of the motorway, a second church, St Teresa's was built, to the south of the new road, primarily for worshippers who struggled to get to the other church.

A quiet and modest man, Fr Fraher was born in County Limerick, Ireland and attended the Christian Brothers High School and Pallotine College, both in Thurles.

He was accepted as an ecclesiastical student for the Diocese of Salford in December, 1953 and attended St John’s College, Waterford.

He was ordained to the priesthood at St John’s College, Waterford, in 1959 and his first appointment was at St Mary's in Swinton as a supply priest.

From 1959 to 1966 he was assistant priest at St Ann's in Blackburn. A keen golfer and football fan, he became a Blackburn Rovers fan and loved to tease his parishioners who were Burnley followers in a light hearted way.

He was also chaplain to the former St Hilda's and St Theodore's RC high schools.

A quiet and modest man, Fr Fraher was described as being "funny and genuine" by parishioner Mrs Ann Hewitt.

She said: "He knew all his parishioners and when he conducted a eulogy he never needed notes because he knew everyone so well."

Mr Bill Ingham, who worked alongside Fr Fraher as a volunteer at the church for many years, said he was a kind man who never had a bad word to say about anyone.

Mr Ingham said: "He was popular and well liked and he loved hearing about parishioners lives and families.

"He had a way of getting information about people without being too intrusive or asking too many questions.

"But he was someone who you could work with and for because he was such a kind person."

Former parishioner Steven Hardy paid tribute to Fr Fraher as "a priest who lived in the real world."

Mr Hardy said: "When I found myself homeless at the age of 16 it was Fr Fraher who stepped in to help and contacted family to take me in even though at the time I did not know he had done this.

"He could see what needed to be done and he just went ahead and did it."

Even though he moved away from Burnley several years ago, Mr Hardy kept in touch with Fr Fraher and returned to his hometown with his three children so they could be baptised here.

He added: "I visited him regularly and my children loved going to see him because he was so entertaining and funny.

"Fr Fraher was a priest who was quite unorthodox and never over pious but he understood the real world and the problems his parishioners faced and he would do all he could to help them."

After his retirement Fr Fraher went to live at McAuley Mount Care Home in Burnley.