THE funeral took place this week of much-loved and respected north Antrim priest Father Ernest McCaughan who passed away last Sunday.
Among those gathered to pay their respects to Father McCaughan was Cardinal Cahal Daly, Bishop of Down & Connor Noel Trainor and Bishops Patrick Walsh and Anthony Farquhar.
Also in attendance were his cousins Monsignor Colm McCaughan, Monsignor Ambrose Macauley and Father Aiden McCaughan along with many other colleagues including parish priest of Loughguile Father Robert Butler of which the family spoke kindly for the many years of caring for Father McCaughan while in Magherahoney.
Father McCaughan was born and lived in the townland of Ballybregagh, two miles from Magherahoney within the parish of Loughguile.
Throughout his ministry he spent many years in Co Down far apart from his family and friends. Although he loved the people and parishes he was placed he always loved to return home to Ballybregagh.
He died last Sunday aged 83.
His nephew, Frank McCaughan, spoke fondly of his uncle who he said was always on hand to offer advice and guidance in times of need.
"Father Ernest was a very humble and holy man and there was a great feeling of peace when in his company," said Frank.
"I will miss the many conversations and thoughts we shared together especially when needing advice, he was a good listener.
"When Father Ernest retired he was very fortunate to return to Magherahoney within his native parish where he grew up as a boy, went to school and church which was the centre point of his working life.
"In his own words, he always said ‘our Lord was good, I’ve had a good fulfilled life'.
"He was delighted to return home a few years ago opposite St MacNissi's Chapel to be surrounded by all his family.
"It is a fact that priests do not normally get posted in their own native parish and this was a first for the diocese so for that he was eternally grateful.
"On the day of his funeral it was delightful to see Cardinal Cahal B Daly also return to his native parish along with Bishops Noel Trainor, Patrick Walsh and Anthony Farquhar."
Father McCaughan had been the parish priest in Saintfield and Carrickmannon and in Portglenone in the eighties and nineties.
He was ordained to the priesthood on June 22 1952 having studied at St Malachy's College, Queen's University Belfast and St Patrick's Maynooth and served in Crossgar until 1961.
For the next 20 years he was curate in Newcastle, Lisburn and St Paul's in Belfast before being appointed parish priest in Saintfield and Carrickmannon.
Four years later he took up the same position in Portglenone.
Down & Connor spokesman Father John McManus said that after Father McCaughan's August 2000 retirement he "very generously" spent the next seven years of his life as an assistant priest in Magherahoney.
However, ill health brought a halt to this in summer 2007.
Describing Father McCaughan as a "person who gave of himself", Father McManus said:
"He was a good priest who didn't spare himself in the carrying out of his priestly duties.
"He created a family atmosphere with people in every parish and this was because of his closeness to his own family of whom he always spoke fondly."
Father McCaughan was laid to rest in the cemetery at St MacNissi's.