Obituary : Kieran Gallagher-Power (1987-2012)
Reprinted from The Common Good, No 63, Advent 2012
The shock of Kieran Gallagher-Power’s sudden and unexpected death has been immense. This vibrant environmentally conscious 25 year old had been engaged in so many peacemaking activities over recent months that it is hard to believe we will never see his talk frame again at a peace rally, a conservation meeting or attending another Mass.
Kieran died suddenly on 5 September 2012, hit by a passenger train near Masterton. He had just spent a week at the Trappist Monastery at Kopua discerning his future vocation and was staying with the Marist Brothers in Upper Hutt. His death sent shock waves throughout the country, and especially among his wider circle of friends, members of the Green Party, the Catholic Worker communities and his large extended family. Right up into his final week, Kieran had been engaged in getting petition forms signed to stop asset sales in New Zealand going ahead. He was that sort of activist.
From the time he was a boy, Kieran often came to the Catholic Worker weekly gatherings on Wednesday evening. His mother, Kathleen, is a founding member of the Christchurch Catholic Worker and is usually present at our gatherings. He would sit quietly in the group until handed the guitar. Then he would shift into another gear. He was an excellent guitarist and would often lead us in the hymns.
Kieran’s shy demeanor and gentle nature sheltered a passion for social justice, particularly in relation to the environment. He was a mountain man in the best sense of the word and the photo of him standing on a mountain ridge complete with his pack, surveying the beauty beyond, adorned his funeral leaflet. In many ways that picture summed up Kieran’s life – his passion for nature, the hills and mountains, the wide abyss, the physical challenge of climbing.
Yet there was more to him than that. Besides being an excellent soccer player, Kieran was a seeker, one who was rarely satisfied with the obvious answer. He was a searcher for the spiritual quest that St Augustine speaks of – that restlessness that only finds its ultimate peace in God. That he should die only days after spending retreat time fitted his continuing quest.
His funeral was marked by large crowds who gathered for his vigil at home and his Requiem Mass at Sacred Heart Church, Addington, his ancestral parish. In the ancient Irish way, he was ‘walked’ in a casket made by Kathleen’s husband Mike, from his home along the streets where he rode his bike, through the park where he played soccer, to the church. He was accompanied by a crowd of friends who sang as they walked. It was a fitting ‘alternative’ funeral to a young man who saw the world through different eyes and wanted always to make it a better place. May he rest in peace.