It was with great sadness that the College community heard of the passing of not one but two well-known and much loved priests on the same day – both alumni of St. Malachy’s who served on the teaching staff. Fr Des Wilson and Monsignor Ambrose MacAulay will be remembered not only as intellectually gifted teachers but as kindly pastors who served their people with energy and commitment.
Fr Des was from the upper Ormeau area of Belfast and entered St. Malachy’s College as a student in September 1935. Not long after his ordination he returned to the College in 1952 as Spiritual Director. During his fourteen years on the staff, in addition to promoting the spiritual welfare of his students he supervised the choral society and started a film club. After he left the College to be a curate in St. John’s parish his life took a very different turn as sectarian strife engulfed the city. As a priest in Ballymurphy he supported his people during the worst of the troubles and worked tirelessly to bring peace and jobs to a much neglected community.
When, many years later in 2015, he returned to present his film archive to the College a large number of his former students came back to see him.
Fr Ambrose was from the Glens of Antrim and came to St. Malachy’s College in September 1946. As a seminarian in Rome his specialist interest was History. He succeeded Fr Des Wilson as Spiritual Director of the College in 1966 before being appointed Chaplain of Queen’s University in 1970. He became one of Ireland’s foremost authorities on ecclesiastical history and the author of many books including a number of comprehensive biographies of the 19th century Bishops of Down and Connor. He retired as Parish Priest of St. Brigid’s but kept researching aspects of Irish history until his death. He was never happier than when immersed in archives and special collections in Rome, London or Dublin. On several occasions in recent years he came back to his alma mater to give historical talks. He will be badly missed.
Requiescant in pace