Tributes to priest who served among the poor in El Salvador
Tributes have been paid to a priest of our diocese who served the poor in Central America.
Fr Thomas Greenan died peacefully yesterday evening (Sunday) at St Margaret’s Care Home in Edinburgh. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s and was 64 years old.
He had moved to El Salvador in 1986 with two fellow priests, living and working in the area of Chalatenango, at the time a conflict zone.
This was in the years following the 1980 assassination of Oscar Romero, the then Archbishop of San Salvador, who inspired Fr Greenan to write a book on his homilies.
His brother Joe said: “He saw some horrific things in Latin America. But even though he was on the other side of the world he was always there for me. He was gentle and kind and I’ve never seen my mother so proud as at Tommy’s ordination (see main pic, left).
“When I last saw him yesterday (Sunday 17 May), I told him: ‘I could live a million lives and could still never repay you for what you’ve done for me’.”
Bishop Joseph Toal, of Motherwell Diocese, visited Fr Greenan in El Salvador in 1999 on a trip organised by SCIAF.
He said: “When Oscar Romero was murdered that made a big impression on Tommy and was one of the things about him going to El Salvador. He integrated into these communities and shared their lifestyle. That perhaps took a toll on him - it was a spartan life.”
Bishop Toal remembered Fr Greenan as a determined character and a gifted footballer when they both attended junior seminaries and later the Scots College in Valladolid.
“He did Spanish at Blairs (College) and read a lot of Spanish literature, so when we went to seminary in Spain he was far ahead of me!
“I got to know him well there and we were ordained within days of each other. When Tommy wanted to do something he gave himself to it 100 per cent - he was very single-minded. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."
He added: "One of the things I remember was him getting up early every day to go the chapel and read the Bible through from start to finish. He was also an excellent footballer and supported Hibs.
“He was very keen on the Church in Latin America, and with his strong background in Spanish, he wanted to go there after he was ordained.”
Fr Greenan was born on 20 January 1956 and baptised at St Theresa’s in Craigmillar. He was one of ten children and is survived by four brothers and four sisters.
He was educated at St Francis’ Primary School in Craigmillar then St John’s in Portobello before attending the junior seminaries St Vincent’s, Langbank (1968-70), and Blairs College, near Aberdeen (1970-74).
He studied for the priesthood at The Scots College in Valladolid from 1974 to 1980 and was ordained at St John’s in Portobello in July 1980.
Fr Greenan served Holy Cross Parish in Edinburgh (1980-81) and St Andrew's, Livingston (1981-86).
He was on mission in El Salvador from 1989 to 2001 and shared in the poverty of the communities there, finding great inspiration in the work of the late Archbishop Romero.
It is with sadness and fondness that we heard today of the death of Fr Tommy Greenan. Tommy devoted much of his vocation to serving the Church in El Salvador, where he came to know and love the teachings of St Oscar Romero, former Archbishop of San Salvador. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/64uAmsAdzL
— SCIAF (@sciaf) May 18, 2020
He attended Comillas University in Madrid from 1994 to 1996 and returned to Spain for further studies from 2001 to 2005. His thesis ‘Archbishop Romero’s Homilies – a Theological and Pastoral Analysis’ was published in Spanish before being translated and published in English in 2018.
As well as the homilies, the book covers the life of Oscar Romero, his teachings and the role of the Church in El Salvador.
Fr Greenan said at the time: “It is great to know this book can now be read by many more and I hope those that do enjoy this analysis of Oscar Romero’s homilies.”
Bishop Toal wrote the foreword to the English edition and said: “Tommy was idealistic and very clever with words - he had a poetic spirit in him.”
SCIAF posted on it its Facebook page: "Tommy devoted much of his vocation to serving the Church in El Salvador, where he came to know and love the teachings of St Oscar Romero...SCIAF was delighted to publish Tommy’s theological and pastoral analysis of Romero’s sermons.
"Tommy will be remembered for his love of social justice and the poor, and the insights he gave us into Oscar Romero’s life and theology.
May he rest in peace.
Archbishop Leo Cushley said: "Fr Greenan preached to the poor in Central America and lived, worked and served among them in difficult conditions, both materially and politially.
"That is an inspiring example of giving onself fully to God in a place far from friends and family. May he rest in peace."
Fr Thomas Greenan 20/01/56 – 17/05/20. Requiescat in Pace.
Title pics from left
- Fr Greenan gives his mum holy communion at his ordination Mass at St John's, Portobello, in 1980.
- Giving a lecture in Edinburgh in 2010.
- As a young priest in Central America.
- As a seminarian at the Scots College in Valledolid, Spain.
- At the launch of his book in Edinburgh in 2018 (Image: SCIAF)