Monsignor Daniel Shanahan (October 1995) (Founding Father)

Monsignor Daniel Shanahan (October 1995) (Founding Father)

Monsignor Daniel Shanahan


The following appreciation was written by Monsignor Gordon Read: 6 November 1995


My first encounter with Dan was just after he arrived at Leigh-on-Sea in 1972. I was a student at St Edmund’s, Ware and he invited me in for a cup of coffee. When I sat down, he gave me a copy of Noonan’s ‘Power to Dissolve’ and asked me to read it and tell him what I thought! This was entirely in character: the warmth of his hospitality, his interest in Canon Law, his sharp intellect, and the desire to provoke a response from people and draw them into conversation.

He was born in Ilford in 1922. He studied for the priesthood at Ushaw College, where he made many friends, and which he continued to visit over the years, He acquired an interest in the English Martyrs, and history in general, which he later pursued with enthusiasm through the Essex Recusant Society. While at Leigh-on-Sea, he helped Fr.Godfrey Anstruther, O.P. to bring to completion his four volume history ‘The Seminary Priests, personally sponsoring its publication.

After ordination in 1947 he was posted briefly to Manor Park, and then Southend, before being sent to the Lateran University where he gained a doctorate in Canon Law. On his return in 1952 he was appointed Chancellor, an office he was to exercise with great distinction until 1965. He busily set about organising the Diocesan Tribunal, hitherto existing mostly on paper, consulting American Dioceses on their experience, and in due course was appointed Vice-Officialis. In March 1958 he was appointed Privy Chamberlain by Pope Pius XII. Perhaps one of the honours bestowed on him which he regarded as the most important was his election in 1978 to The Old Brotherhood of the English Secular Clergy, which like the Order of Merit only has 24 members drawn from the whole of England and Wales.

His zeal for justice, and the proper implementation of the Church’s Law led him to organise, under the authority of Bishop Beck, the Second Diocesan Synod in 1955, and he was also responsible for drafting a good deal of the legislation enacted at it. These amounted to some 160 statutes, filling a sixty page booklet. Some of its provisions were quite advanced for the time, e.g. insisting on the Presbytery being the home to all the clergy and stole fees being shared equally.

In 1957 he was the inspiration with Bishop Moverley, Fr.John Humphreys and Dr Lawrence McReavy of Ushaw in forming the Canon Law Society. Running a large parish meant that in recent years he found it difficult to attend the Annual Conference. I think his last appearance was at the Silver Jubilee Conference in 1982, when he gave a paper entitled “Legislating for the People of God – the lessons of history: a personal appraisal”. Dan was inclined to fly kites, and was tackled on his interpretation of one Canon by a German Bishop who insisted on taking him through the text word by word. Dan had met his match!

In 1962 he was appointed to Hornchurch as Parish Priest, and ten years later to Leigh-on-Sea, where he was to serve for sixteen years, before brief terms at Chadwell and Hainault. Parish life gave him a broader canvas, on which he painted a colourful and energetic picture. He was always larger than life, with a quirky sense of humour.

He applied great enthusiasm to parish life, ecumenism and the wider community. While at Hornchurch he began what was to develop into the Portal Christian rehabilitation Centre by buying a caravan to provide accommodation for the homeless.

Sadly, his own health began to decline several years ago, forcing him to retire, he was admitted to Rochford hospital on 25th October where he died shortly afterwards. His funeral took place at Leigh-on-Sea on 7th November. He was taken for burial to the grave he was to share with Mgr. John Howell at St Patrick’s Leytonstone. With characteristic foresight, his own details had been entered on the stone back in 1976, leaving only the date of death blank. May he rest in peace.

[Edited from CLSN 104, December 1995]