There will be a memorial mass to celebrate the life of the Short Strand priest Stephen Rooney (66) on Tuesday 8th September in St Matthew’s chapel where he was baptized and where he often celebrated mass among the people he was born and reared with. 

His ashes will repose in the chapel over the weekend so that parishioners can drop in and offer a prayer or to give thanks for a life well lived. They will then be taken to be interred at Milltown Cemetery in the grave of his parents John and Catherine Rooney. 

The celebrated Belfast artist and family friend, Danny Devenny, presented the Rooney family with a portrait of their recently deceased brother yesterday. Danny, who is best known for his political mural paintings on the Falls Road, said he did the portrait at the suggestion of his wife Deborah.

COMMUNITY GRIEF: Fr Stephen Rooney pictured with his late mother Catherine on one of his visits home. Fr Stephen's ashes will return to his beloved St Matthew's parish next week
COMMUNITY GRIEF: Fr Stephen Rooney pictured with his late mother Catherine on one of his visits home. Fr Stephen's ashes will return to his beloved St Matthew's parish next week

Marie Devlin, sister of Fr Rooney was moved to tears by his kindness and thoughtfulness at what has been a very upsetting time for the family. "We have been taken aback by the amount of people who have contacted our family with expressions of sympathy for Stephen, here in Ireland and in the USA. We are so grateful to Danny for the skill, artistry and love he put into the portrait of Stephen; we will always treasure it along with the memory of our brother."

Fr Rooney’s funeral mass in Michigan was co-celebrated by the archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron along with over 50 fellow priests in attendance. Archbishop Vigneron read out a letter from Noel Treanor, bishop of Down and Conor expressing sorrow at the loss of the Belfast priest. At the funeral sermon, Fr Marc Gawronski said that Stephen was sent by God as a gift from Ireland to the diocese.

Fr Rooney’s memorial mass will be streamed live on the St Matthew's church Facebook page.