Tributes have been paid to a former Crossmaglen parish priest who passed away at Craigavon Area Hospital from Covid-19 on Saturday morning.
Fr Joe McKeever, who was originally from Portadown, was a highly respected, hugely popular clergyman, friend and brother – known to many for his “great character”, right across Co. Armagh – and beyond.
Fr Joe taught at Drumcree High School for a number of years, having entered the priesthood, in his 40s – a late vocation, compared to most.
And true to his character, his warmth, and his gentle soul, tributes were plenty following his sad passing.
Emmy Award Winning singer and TV producer, Eamonn McCrystal, was a close friend.
“Very sad news today, my dear friend Fr Joe McKeever has just passed away from Covid,” he said.
“Fr McKeever and I worked on many projects together including ‘Rest For Your Soul’. My sincere condolences to his family. I’ll miss you Joe!”
Also paying tribute, Fr Paddy McCafferty, parish priest at Corpus Christi, Belfast, said Fr Joe was “absolutely hilarious”.
He added: “A very colourful character and great company. A very kind and wise pastor too. May God rest his good and dear soul.”
Crossmaglen Rangers, who Fr Joe supported closely, said “players, members, supporters and friends are deeply saddened to learn of [his] passing.
“Fr Joe, former Parish Priest of Upper Creggan was a loyal, devoted and passionate supporter of Cross Rangers. We all have fond memories of Fr Joe enjoying many successes with us. We send our sincere condolences to the entire McKeever family at this difficult time. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”
McKeever’s Bar in Portadown – owned by Fr Joe’s family – posting on their Facebook page, commented: “As I am sure most of you have now heard of the sad passing of Fr Joe McKeever.
“As you can all imagine we are all deeply saddened with this loss. Fr Joe was more than just a priest to us. He was a brother, an uncle, a teacher, a mentor, a dear dear friend to everyone.
“He will be missed more than words can convey. We love you Joe.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life… John 3:16.”
Fr McKeever was the beloved son of the late Sarah (Sadie) and Patsy and dear brother of Colm, Marian (Gallagher), Patricia (Gallagher), Charlie, Colette (McNally), Mark and the late Gary. R.I.P.
A private funeral will take place for Fr. McKeever with Requiem Mass being celebrated at a later date, details of which will be published here.
Deeply regretted by his loving family, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Bishop Michael Router, Cardinal Seán Brady, the Priests of the Archdiocese, family circle and many friends.
“Requiescat in Pace”.