By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published June 1, 2017
ATLANTA—Two sons of Ireland were remembered with prayers at the Cathedral of Christ the King where a Book of the Gospels rested on each of their wooden caskets, to the left and to the right of the center aisle.
Msgr. Leo P. Herbert and Father Terence “Terry” A. Kane came to the then-mission territory of the South five decades ago to minister to Catholics in northern Georgia. They were two among dozens of young priests from the Emerald Isle drawn to the archdiocese in the 1960s.
Passing away within a few days of each other, they were memorialized in a joint funeral Mass, a first for priests in local memory. Father Kane, 75, died May 17. Msgr. Herbert, 74, died May 15.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said the Mass was a “double sorrow” but also “blessed with a double source of hope.”
More than 60 priests and seven deacons joined Archbishop Gregory and Bishop Luis R. Zarama for the funeral Mass on Wednesday, May 24, at the Peachtree Road cathedral. A joint vigil service was held there the evening of May 23.
A lit Easter candle stood at the foot of the altar steps, surrounded at its base with small white flowers. Irish accents of the family and close friends of the priests filled the church as they read sacred Scripture during Mass and gave the eulogies.
He found God in unpredictable places
Remembering Father Kane, Father Paul Flood first got the congregation laughing with anecdotes. He recalled how when they had just met, his friend, driving in the “fast lane” of Interstate 285, offered him a cup of tea, preparing it with a flask and tea bag, also offering him milk and sugar.
Even atop the Empire State Building in New York City, Father Flood found Irish tourists who knew of Father Kane.
But in seriousness, he said, “(Father Terry) carried the Gospel and was also caught by it. He knew he was sent and he knew he was being pushed and he knew he was being impelled by God.”
“He knew that the Holy Spirit would blow as a gentle breeze in his ministry. On other occasions, it would blow as a thundering wind pushing him into places that he may not want to go. (Father Terry) was filled with the Spirit of God,” Father Flood said. “He loved his priesthood. He was faithful, he was loyal, and he was utterly transparent in his service.”
Father Flood sketched “some patterns that the good Lord weaved into the fabric of Father Terry’s life and priesthood.”
“He never forgot it was God’s word he was preaching, but he did forget the time he had to preach,” Father Flood said, joking that when you thought his homily was coming in for a landing, it would veer off in a new direction.
But it was Father Kane who told him the greatest sins in the priesthood were ambition and self-pity. “Terry knew you had to be yourself and Christ cannot be found in the predictable places.”
“Terry was aware of his failures, but he immersed himself in the beauty and pain of the people he served and in doing so he found God in the unpredictable places,” Father Flood said.
“For this reason, he was the first to welcome Father (Richard) Holung and the Missionaries of the Poor to this archdiocese. Terry knew that the Eucharist was … an invitation to break ourselves. He was aware of the contradiction between the intact priest and the broken host.”
Born Dec. 24, 1941, in Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland, Father Kane was a member of the seminary class of 1968 at St. Patrick’s College, Carlow.
During his 49 years of priesthood, he served in many parishes, from the urban Atlanta center of Our Lady of Lourdes Church to the lakeside community of Hartwell at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. He was the founding pastor of St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Snellville, which, at his behest, was the first church in the United States to be named for the saint honored in his Irish hometown. He was also pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atlanta, and of St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw.
He retired in August 2010, after serving as pastor in Hartwell from 1998 to 2010.
A life of service
Msgr. Herbert, a priest of the archdiocese for 50 years, had just celebrated his golden jubilee, having been ordained in 1967 after graduating from seminary at All Hallows College, Dublin. He was born in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.
His priestly ministry was diverse, from assistant pastor in a growing diocese, to serving Catholic men and women in the armed services, working as a high school teacher and as a pastor.
His first assignments were at St. Joseph Church, Athens, St. Anthony of Padua Church, Atlanta, and Holy Cross Church, Atlanta.
Four years after ordination, Msgr. Herbert volunteered to serve as a U.S. Army chaplain. Within months, he became Fort Benning’s first Catholic hospital chaplain in some time. He served faith communities on military bases in Georgia, Alaska and Kansas.
When he returned to the archdiocese, he taught at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta, and then became a pastor. He served as pastor of St. Bernadette Church, Cedartown, Corpus Christi Church, Stone Mountain, and St. George Church, Newnan. He was founding pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw, and concluded his active priesthood as pastor of Our Lady of the Mount Church, Lookout Mountain, and its mission of St. Katharine Drexel, Trenton, which he helped establish. He retired in 2011.
Father Tom Healy, a priest of the Savannah Diocese, was a classmate of Msgr. Herbert at All Hallows and was organizing a jubilee celebration in Ireland for their class. He expected his friend to be able to come.
“It was not to be. God’s ways are not our ways,” he said.
He remembered Msgr. Herbert as a seminarian full of life, “a great tennis player and a musician, too.”
“He was very outgoing and very friendly toward all people.”
Grieving friends and family can take comfort in the reassurance of Christ and the church that “we lose them only for a time and only to God,” he said, adding that assurance should give a sense of hope. “The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality.”
“Of course, we come in sadness here today, but we have an undercurrent of peace, we have also a sense of serenity and above all … of gratitude to thank God for the life of Father Leo and Father Terry,” Father Healy said.
“The death of a priest is a very special time of thanksgiving—to thank God for a life of service,” he said.
Father Flood, who served in parishes with both Msgr. Herbert and Father Kane, said, “Today the master weaver threads his love and mercy and receives the fabric of the pattern of Terry’s and Leo’s life. … All of us made patterns together, but the whole—that requires the master weaver.”
Interment for Msgr. Herbert took place immediately following the Mass at Arlington Memorial Park, Sandy Springs. Inurnment of Father Kane’s cremains took place Saturday, May 27, at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Hartwell.