Divine Word brother motivated by love of God to be ‘salesman’ for Christ

TECHNY, Ill. — Divine Word Brother Patrick Hegarty, who helped to make Ireland’s The Word one of the country’s most successful magazines, died May 28. He was 97.

Brother Patrick Hegarty, a member of the Society of the Divine Word, who helped to make Ireland’s The Word one of the country’s most successful magazines, died May 28 at age 97. (CNS photo/courtesy Society of the Divine Word)

“Brother Patrick sometimes was a man of few words, but you could read the twinkle in his eyes,” said Divine Word Father Quang Duc Dinh, provincial of the Chicago province, which has its headquarters in Techny.

“His engaging personality and interest in people made him a stellar representative of the Society of the Divine Word and the Catholic faith,” the priest said in a June 1 statement.

A funeral Mass was celebrated for Brother Patrick June 1 at the Divine Word Residence chapel at Techny. He was laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery at Techny.

Born in County Galway, Ireland, in 1921, Pat Hegarty was the eldest of Michael and Margaret (Duignan) Hegarty’s six boys.

As a young man, he completed his studies and worked as an apprentice at Thomas Corry & Sons Ltd., a general store in Kilsallagh in Galway, Ireland.

In 1944, he joined the Society of the Divine Word at St. Patrick’s College in Donamon Castle, County Roscommon.

Three years later, he professed first vows and took the religious name Columba. After the Second Vatican Council when religious brothers were given the option to continue using their religious name or return to their baptismal name, he chose to be known again as Patrick.

Brother Patrick worked in Great Britain during the 1950s, at Divine Word College in Rome in the early 1960s and in the United States thereafter.

For decades, Brother Patrick put his salesmanship skills to work for the Society of the Divine Word. While assigned to Donamon Castle, Ireland’s oldest continuously occupied castle, Brother Patrick traveled the country’s rugged West Country and sold Divine Word greeting cards.

In part due to his toil, today’s Divine Word Missionaries at Donamon are Ireland’s largest producer of religious greeting cards.

In 1953, Brother Patrick’s superiors placed him in charge of circulation for their Catholic magazine called The Word. For seven years, he traveled by motorbike and sold the publication in Ireland, England and Scotland. Under Brother Patrick’s care, The Word grew to become Ireland’s leading religious publication.

He then was called to Rome and worked at the Generalate of the Society of the Divine Word, the congregation’s world headquarters. He served as secretary to the mission secretary at Pontifical College of St. Peter the Apostle until he was assigned to the United States in 1965.

For 40 years, he traveled the Eastern United States to sell altar wine produced at the congregation’s O-Neh-Da Winery in Conesus, New York. Income from that business went to Divine Word Missionaries overseas who desperately needed financial support.

In 2006 at age 85, Brother Patrick moved to Bordentown, New Jersey, to retire in the fashion that Divine Word Missionaries do — finding other ways to serve their fellow human beings. Fluent in German, Italian and Spanish, he volunteered at the Trenton Diocesan Office for Migrants and Refugees in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

While there, he helped hundreds of immigrants from South and Central America as they traversed through paperwork and navigated the immigration system.

Brother Patrick had lived at Techny since 2009. His youngest brother William, also a Divine Word Missionary, was sent to Illinois to study for the priesthood.

Father Willie Hegarty, who passed away in 2008, worked in urban parishes in Chicago and Indianapolis for 35 years.

In addition to his parents and Father William Hegarty, Brother Patrick was preceded in death by his brothers James, Michael, Thomas and Martin. He is survived by nieces, nephews and many Divine Word confreres.