Rest in Peace
There were only two words, “A Saint”, to describe the life and times of Fr. Bob the late Parish Priest of Windgap who was interred in front of St Nicholas Church in Windgap last Sunday. He passed away peacefully on Thursday 13th September 2018 at St. Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny.
No matter what continent, city or parish he travelled to in his ministry, Fr. Robert Raftice's holiness, spirituality and huge faith went with him.
A humble man, Fr. Bob a native of Mullinavat was appointed as Parish Priest to Windgap in 1986 and loved being out with the people where he provided great support for the sick, at all times and very often in faraway places.
Fr. Bob travelled the byways of the parish on his bicycle or in his Volkswagen Beetle, visiting the houses and particularly the elderly.
In them he prayed and enjoyed a cup of tea and brown bread at the kitchen table as equally as at a roadside campfire, with the Simon Community in London or in a faraway Kenyan village.
In Windgap he commenced the holy hour on Mondays where it has continued for over 30 years to the present day.
Christenings were included in the Easter vigil ceremonies in the Parish Church on Holy Saturdays, the Good Friday Stations were made at the Calvary Grotto overlooking the village and the Eucharistic processions were spread from Windgap to Tullahought village. In Tullahought he quietly entered the Village in the National Tidy Towns competition.
It was a move that saw the village so far down at the bottom of the adjudicator’s results sheet that it inspired the Community to reach its current silver medal status at National level. He was present when the Discos funded the Handball Alley and helped develop the GAA pitch and the weekly Card Drives were in full flight as a community fundraiser when interest rates hit 18% in the recession of the Eighties.
Having spread the Graveyard Masses that honoured the dead to every identifiable burial ground in the parish, he sent a special request to have a more permanent Altar Structure provided at each venue for the millennium year.
Having omitted one burial place over the years, he appeared to live a dream to mark the millennium by celebrating an Aifreann at the oldest burial ground at one of the highest points in the parish.
An hour before the event a stone for the altar was moved from a mile away in the Birchwood valley to the summit and placed close to the great circle of rocks of the megalithic tomb on the top of Kilmacoliver Hill. There it was propped level and surrounded by heather and wildflowers.
Then as if he had descended from the clouds, Fr. Bob arrived silently and with his walking stick circled and surveyed the stone, as a farmer would a prize bullock or an owner their brand new car.
Maybe surprised it had arrived, the smile showed a great contentment and Mass was said for the first time where local ancestors laid for over five thousand years. There facing into the parish on a midsummers evening, surrounded by the panoramic views from Mount Leinster to the Devils Bit, Tramore and the Knockmealdowns, was both a poignant and heavenly occasion. Having been ordained in 1958.
Fr. Bob served in many areas in the diocese of Ossory including Castletown and Erril in Laois, Clogh, Callan Dunnamaggin, Kilmoganny, and also abroad in London and Kenya. Fr. Bob had the unique honour like international cyclist Sean Kelly of having a place, in a housing Estate “Fr. Raftice Place” called after him in Mooneenroe during his own lifetime.
Involved in that areas Water scheme he is recalled for the publication of the Gloryside magazine in Dunnamaggin and the restoration of the church in Kilmoganny.
Fr. Bob’s ministry lasted in Windgap for fourteen years to the year 2000 A.D. when he returned to the missions with the Kiltegan Fathers.
Having come home after a few years with ill health he had just celebrated his Diamond Jubilee sixty years after his ordination.
Following Fr. Bob’s removal to Windgap on Saturday evening he was visited by many, including his former classmate from Clonliffe College Bishop Laurence Forristal.
Following con-celebrated Requiem Mass led by an tAthair Fearghail Ó Fearghaill PP of Bearna na Gaoithe and the family and community, over 30 priests sung the Latin Marian Hymn, Salve Regina at the graveside. Afterwards many adjourned for the second day of community teas.
As in the GAA Rooms the previous evening all had a Fr. Bob story of prayer and faith that included his great interest in Hurling. Hours after, they were still being shared in the Summer Sunshine outside the Community Centre in the front of Tullahought Church.
Shortly after 7pm when all had departed, a huge falling star crossed the sky in a southerly direction. Ní beidh a leithéid ann arís
Fr Bob was pre-deceased by his brothers James and Patrick, sisters Catherine (O’Connor), Sr. Mary (Holy Faith) and Ellen (O’Brien) and his niece Breda (O’Connor). Deeply regretted by his loving family, sisters-in-law Anna Mae (Mullinavat) and Breda (Danesfort), nephews, nieces, grand nephews, grand nieces, relatives, neighbours, friends, Bishop Dermot Farrell, retired Bishops, Laurence Forristal (former classmate) and Seamus Freeman, priests, religious of the Diocese of Ossory, former parishioners and his colleagues in St. Patrick’s Missionary, Kiltegan.