Fr. Colm Campbell, founder and President of the New York Irish Center and former Director of the Irish Apostolate USA, died in Belfast last Tuesday June 9 following a short illness. He would have celebrated his 80th birthday this Thursday.
Born in Belfast in 1935, Fr. Campbell lived in Northern Ireland through the worst of the Troubles before moving to New York in 1992. Looking for a change, he took the position as chaplain to the Diocese of Brooklyn, under the auspices of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants.
On moving to New York, Fr. Campbell was based in St. Teresa’s in Woodside, Queens, where he became a fully-fledged member of the Irish community there.
After 7 years, Fr. Campbell moved on to become the national director of the Irish Apostolate USA and left New York for Washington. Throughout his time in this role, he worked closely with the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers, a national umbrella organization coordinating services for Irish immigrants in the United States.
Despite retiring due to health reasons in 2004, he was still aware of the need for a base for the Irish community in New York—a place that would not only quench the desire of earlier Irish immigrants for a center of support and community but that would act as a starting point for help and advice for the Irish immigrants of future generations.
On the advice of his friend, Paddy Reilly, Fr. Campbell, with thanks to several business leaders in the community, bought a property in Long Island City, Queens in 2003 and the New York Irish Center was born.
Again thanks to the Irish community, in particular, the Irish building contractors in the city, the building was transformed, and the doors officially opened in 2005.
Fr. Colm’s remains will leave Nazareth Care Village, Ravenhill Road on Friday June 12 at 6.00pm to arrive at the Good Shepherd Church, Ormeau Road for 6.30pm. Funeral will take place on Saturday June 12 after Requiem Mass at 11.30am and afterwards to Roselawn Crematorium for committal at 1.30pm.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.