Remembering Fr David O’Kane

Date published: 28 January 2023

Catholics across Greater Manchester have paid tribute to a priest who served the Rochdale community for almost 30 years.
The death of Rev. David Francis O’Kane was announced by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford on Saturday 7 January 2023.

Fr O’Kane, who died just one week after his 90th birthday, served as parish priest of The Sacred Heart in Rochdale from 1988 until his retirement in 2017.

A well-known and well-respected leader of faith within the local community, Fr O’Kane arrived at Sacred Heart from St Herbert’s Chadderton with great enthusiasm, telling the Rochdale Observer at the time, “I just want to create a community spirit.”

With great energy and organisational capacity, he set to work refurbishing the church and engaging the parish in fundraising for a parish centre, which was officially opened in 1996.

The new parish centre further enabled Sacred Heart to become a focal point for the community, hosting sportsperson’s dinners, concerts and pantomimes starring the Sacred Heart Young Singers, donkey derby fairs and car boot sales, which became the stuff of legend, stopping the traffic and bringing out the whole community.

Although Fr O’Kane enjoyed and recognised the contribution of social events as a means of outreach and welcome, they never took precedence over prayer, worship and the spiritual needs of his congregation who valued his care, leadership, and attention to detail.

Despite being a traditional pastoral priest in many ways, Fr O’Kane was also ahead of his time, installing a web camera in church a whole decade before most of us had heard of Coronavirus, so that Mass could be lived streamed to housebound parishioners and family and friends worldwide.

He was always keen to welcome those of other faiths into church for a guided tour and always expressed his thanks to any non-Catholics who came to Mass.

Fr O’Kane had a gift for remembering names and faces, with one parishioner fondly recalling: “Within minutes of meeting you he would know your name, where you lived, what you did for a living and very importantly how you might be able to contribute to the life of the parish!”

After 60 years of service, Fr O’Kane retired to an apartment in Cathedral House in Salford in 2017, before moving into the Little Sisters of the Poor care home in Longsight in 2022.


David Francis O’Kane


Celebrating the legacy of Fr O’Kane, current parish priest of Sacred Heart (which together with Holy Family Church, is now part of the Parish of St Margaret Clitherow), Fr Simon Firth said: “We stand on the shoulders of giants! Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of Fr O’Kane. May he rest in the peace of Christ.”

Fr O’Kane will be received into St Herbert’s Church, Broadway, Chadderton, OL9 0JY at 7 pm on Wednesday 8 February, prior to his Requiem Mass, celebrated by Bishop John Arnold, on Thursday 9 February at 12 noon. This Mass will also be available to livestream

An additional Requiem Mass for Fr O’Kane will also be celebrated at 7.00 pm by Fr Simon at Sacred Heart Church, Kingsway, Rochdale.

Donations if desired can be made to CAFOD or Springhill Hospice, Rochdale. For further enquiries, please contact Leach & Clegg Funeral Service, 99 Dale St, Milnrow. Tel 01706 647377.

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