Fr. Daniel Corkery  – 1930 -2024

Fr. Daniel Corkery, a priest of the Diocese of Alexandria, passed from this life on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024 in Hessmer, Louisiana at the age of 94.  Fr. Corkery, a native of Ireland, was born on August 25th, 1930 at Aherla in County Cork to a pious Catholic farming family. He attended St. Finbar’s College in Cork and St. Patrick’s College in Carlow from 1944-1955. Attracted to missionary life abroad he responded to Bishop Greco’s appeal and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana on June 5th, 1955.

Fr. Corkery served as an assistant at St. Joseph’s Church in Marksville from 1955 to 1963.  He was assigned as pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Winnsboro in 1963 and served there until 1992 when was assigned as pastor of St John the Baptist in Cloutierville.  In 1999, Fr Corkery was assigned as pastor of  Christ the King in Simmesport.  He was appointed as pastor of the Church of the Little Flower in Evergreen in 2005 and retired from active ministry in August, 2009 after 54 years of dedicated service.

As a priest, Fr. Corkery was noted for his “true priestliness, kindness, devotion and willingness to be of service at all times”.  The number of converts to the faith and the increase in attendance at Mass at the various parishes under his care testify to his zeal for souls. The construction of a chapel dedicated to St. Patrick in Fort Necessity, the renovation and care of the churches and parish facilities assigned to him, the construction of buildings for religious education all testify to the amazing amount of energy he showed for the pastoral ministry. Even in retirement, Fr. Corkery continued to minister to the community at St. Martin of Tours in Belledeau where he took up residence in his later years.

The Funeral Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Robert Marshall and concelebrated by the priests of the Diocese at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral on  Thursday, April 4th at 10am.  Burial will follow at the Priests’ Cemetery at Maryhill.

This is an interview and story about Fr. Daniel Corkery that was published in the Church Today in 2015:

There are some words of advice from your mother, that just stick with you for your entire life. For Father Daniel Corkery, a priest of the Diocese of Alexandria for the past 60 years, those words were “Be a good priest.”

“I can still see her looking me straight in the eyes and shaking her little Irish finger in my face, as she firmly shared her advice,” said Father Corkery, now age 85. “I knew I had better do as I was told!”

For the next 60 years, Father Corkery tried his best to live up to his mother’s expectations, even if it meant leaving his family and native homeland of County Cork, Ireland, to bring souls to God.

It was Bishop Charles P. Greco, bishop of Alexandria back in the 50s who brought young Corkery to America. Bishop Greco was visiting St. Patrick Seminary College in Carlow, Ireland, where a class of 32 seminarians (including Corkery) were about to be ordained to the priesthood.

In Ireland at the time, there were so many Irish Catholic priests being ordained, that most were sent to other countries to serve.

Bishop Greco spoke to the soon-to-be-priests and invited them to serve in the Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana.

Daniel Corkery and his friend Cornelious O’Brien were eager to serve in America, especially since they had known another fellow Irish seminarian, Fr. Patrick Murphy, who a few years earlier, had also left to serve in the Diocese of Alexandria.

Shortly after Fr. Dan Corkery’s ordination on June 5, 1955, he and his friend Fr. Cornelius O’Brien boarded the SSAmerica ship to America — to the Diocese of Alexandria.

“I was 25 years old at the time and very excited for the opportunity to go to America, yet sad to be leaving my family and my homeland behind,” said Father  Corkery.

Fr. Corkery was born on Aug. 25, 1930 to John and Hannah Corkery. He and his brother and three sisters lived and worked on the family farm in County Cork, where they raised cattle, wheat, oats, barley, and Irish potatoes.

“It was hard work making a living at farming,” he said, “but I valued those days of working on the farm because I learned the meaning of hard work and responsibility.  It shaped the foundation of who I am today.”

Fr. Corkery’s parents were devout Irish Catholics and instilled a love for the faith in their children.

In 1949, 8 years after his father passed away, 19-year-old Daniel entered St. Patrick Seminary college, where he began his studies for the priesthood.

“Other than my parents, I don’t think it was any one person who inspired me to become a priest,” he said.  “I went to a retreat one weekend and returned feeling a strong desire to enter the seminary.”

So with the blessing of his mother, who was sad to see him leave, but told him firmly, “Go, and be a good priest,” — Father Corkery left his family and his homeland and headed to America.

Father Corkery arrived at St. Joseph Church in Marksville several days later to begin his ministry as a priest.  Under the guidance of Msgr. Henry Joseph Van der Putten, the pastor then at St. Joseph Church, Father Corkery learned from ‘the best” about becoming a ‘good priest.”

“Msgr. Van der Putten taught me to love and help everyone –no distinction between rich or poor; black or white; educated or not — treat everyone the same!”  said Father Corkery.  “He was kind and compassionate, yet firm, and uncompromising. I learned so much from him.”

After serving in Marksville for more than 8 years, Corkery was assigned to St. Mary’s in Winnsboro,where he served for 29 years — half of his priesthood.

“My years at St. Mary’s was the time of my life!  I loved the people there and I loved every day I served there!” he said with a huge smile on his face.

At the first Mass he celebrated at St. Mary’s there were 25 people in church. Winnsboro was a predominately Protestant community with only one Catholic church — St. Mary’s.

“I was a young priest and on a mission,” he said. “I wanted everyone to know about the true teaching of the Catholic Church!”

So, Father Corkery took to the streets and began knocking on doors.  He visited with his neighbors and invited them to Mass on Sunday. He began offering Bible study and catechism classes for children and adults. He provided opportunities for teens and adults to get involved in the church.

When the church began to fill up with people, it didn’t matter to him that many were not  Catholic. It also didn’t matter to Father Corkery that many of the children that he taught catechism classes to each week, were also not Catholic.

On day, the local radio station, asked him to host a weekly radio program titled,  Catholicism and Daily Living the Faith.  From “Teens and Dating” to “Marriage” and “The Sacraments,” his program covered a wide range of topics.

Year after year, attendance at the Bible study and catechism classes began to grow and grow. One of his Protestant friends donated $20,000 (a lot of money back then) to build a new rectory and 10 classrooms so the children could have a place to learn their catechism.  Father Corkery invited an order of nuns — Daughters of the Holy Cross — to come and help him teach the children.

Many of those, who were in the bible study and catechism classes, soon joined the Church  and attendance at Mass was at an all-time high.

It wasn’t long before Father Corkery was busy administering the sacraments — Baptism and First Communion, — to large groups of new Catholics at St. Mary’s.

“I think people just want to know the Truth about the Catholic Church,” he said. “I don’t believe in telling people what they want to hear; I tell them the plain and Gospel Truth.”

After 29 years in Winnsboro, Father Corkery was re-assigned to St. John the Baptist Church in Cloutierville, where he served seven and a half years; Christ the King Church in Simmesport for six years; and Church of the Little Flower in Evergreen for four and a half years.

In each of his assignments, Father Corkery continued much of the same work as in other parishes — teaching catechism classes, offering summer Bible school, and making renovations to the parish.

In 1986, Father Corkery received a phone call from his sister in Ireland.  He was told that his mother wanted him to come home.

“Is she ill?” Corkery asked.

“No, she just wants you to come home,” was the reply.

When Father Corkery returned to Ireland, his mother suddenly became ill. A day after his arrival, his mother called him to her bedside.

“The minute I placed my hand in her hand, she was gone to her Eternal Rest,” he said. “Despite my sadness and grief, I was happy to be there when God called her home.  I hope I lived up to her expectations of me as a priest.”

(Originally published in the Church Today, June 15, 2015.  Written by Jeannie Petrus, editor of the CT at that time)