Father Michael Coleman
May, 2023
Fellow Marist pays tribute to Father Michael

Father Michael Coleman SM passed away peacefully in hospital in Blackburn on March 17, just three days after the 59th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He was 83. Mourners packed the Holy Name of Mary Church in Middlesbrough for Father Michael’s funeral, before his burial in Thornaby Cemetery. Here his fellow Marist Father Noel Wynn SM looks back on his life…

Father Michael Coleman SM was born and spent his early life in Middlesbrough.
He was a member of the parish of the Holy Name of Mary – the Marist parish – where he served on the altar from the age of six.
He attended St Philomena’s Primary School and St Mary’s College. While he was at the college he was a keen member of the 16th Middlesbrough Scout troop, which numbered among its leaders his brothers, John, Terry and Ged. He was a member of the school football team and played against the Marist schools in Hull and Blackburn in the Thorpe Cup competition. 
It was during this time that his love for Lourdes started. His parents had taken part in some of the early diocesan pilgrimages, which were arranged in part by Father Walter O’Connor SM, who remained a bit of a hero to Mick.
In 1956 he left college to go to the Marist Novitiate in Paignton. After profession he stayed in Paignton for studies in philosophy and theology and he was ordained priest on March 14 1964. Because his father was not well and unable to travel, he was ordained by Bishop Brunner in the Holy Name of Mary Church in Middlesbrough. His brothers John (now Aelred), a Capuchin, and Peter, a priest of the Diocese of Middlesbrough, took part in the service.
After ordination, Mick moved into parish work and served as a curate in the Marist parishes in Hull, Sidcup and Whitechapel, where he became parish priest in 1974.
It was here that he took his first parish pilgrimage to Lourdes, travelling by coach. This was to become a central and very successful part of his priestly ministry.
From May to August 1978 he went to the USA for a period of Marist renewal and during this time made contacts in the States which led to regular visits in subsequent years, helping out for a few weeks at a time in American parishes.
In 1978 he was appointed to the Marist community in Hull as parish priest and vice superior. At this time he really consolidated his role as “Lourdes pilgrimage organiser”.
Some of the Middlesbrough clergy saw how successful his “take your parish to Lourdes by coach” pilgrimages were that they asked him to arrange something for their own parishes.
In one year he took 11 coaches and facilitated places for more than 500 people on the Diocese of Middlesbrough pilgrimage.
At the same time he became involved as chaplain to “Group 117”, an association taking young people with special needs to Lourdes to be part of the HCPT pilgrimage. In their second year, he persuaded them that the best way to travel was by coach! He would say he learnt as much from them as they learnt from him. Whichever way it was, the partnership lasted for 30 years.
In 1987, after another period of renewal, Mick was appointed to the Marist community in Middlesbrough and given the title, “Director of the Third Order of Mary”.
He was not happy with the phrase “Third Order of Mary”, but realised he had an important role to play in encouraging lay people to feel they were part of our founder’s vision of “all the world Marist”.
Mick had a broad view of the Church, which he saw as a “Marian Church” and felt that all were being called to follow Christ as Mary did by being disciples.
He would produce a regular newsletter, keeping in touch with people; he would arrange occasional days of reflection and he would encourage people to go on “holy holidays” which combined, fun, education and prayer.
To do this, he asked that as well as his role as director of the Third Order, he should be allowed to work as a facilitator of pilgrimages. The provincial council agreed to that and he began 30 years as an organiser of pilgrimages. These normally involved travel by coach but occasionally, such as the Marist centenary in Lyons, travel was by rail.
In those years groups went on pilgrimage to Lourdes, Fatima, Rome, Czestochowa, Compostela, Assisi, the Holy Land, Lisieux, sites of Marist historical interest and Walsingham. Other sacred sites visited en route included Rue du Bac, Nevers, Rocamadour, Paray-le-Monial and Altötting.
As well as pilgrimages, other trips were arranged which could loosely be called “holy holidays”. Venues were chosen which had their own interest, but there was always a church where Mass could be celebrated daily.
Special attention was given on these holidays to families with young children, people living on their own who would otherwise have found it difficult to go on holiday and all those who wanted something a bit extra in their time away.
A good example of combining pilgrimage with fun was the annual trips to the National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, which included a festive meal and attending the Thursford Christmas Spectacular annual Christmas show.
These were held over a period of 18 years and were so popular that Mick sometimes had to go three weeks running – he hated it!

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