Reggie Donnelly, a tireless charity worker for children of BiH

April 5, 2018 6:00 PM

Reggie Donnelly. Obit.

The funeral of a charity worker who helped ship thousands of toys to children in war-torn Bosnia every Christmas will take place today.

Reggie Donnelly, who was involved in the ‘Operation Santa’ appeal, passed away on Saturday.

The 78-year-old from Glengoland Park in Belfast died in hospital after a long respiratory illness.

His untiring charity work continued for 15 years after he was moved by the devastating effects of the war in Bosnia during the early 1990s.

Mr Donnelly was at the forefront of organising collections of food, clothing and toys for stricken families and children in the Balkans.

He was also renowned for organising Catholic pilgrimages to Medjugorje in Bosnia where an apparition of the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared.

His devotion was prompted by the belief that he saw the word ‘Mir’ – Croatian for peace – in the sky during his first visit to the region. He has been described as a “truly inspirational man of faith”.

Mr Donnelly proceeded to lead pilgrimages to the remote town for more than two decades, filling six flights a year.

Paying tribute to the founder of Our Lady Queen of Peace Pilgrimages, Jean Reynolds, a friend and colleague, said: “Reggie’s late wife Teresa started the pilgrimages. When she died he took them over.

“Reggie had a great devotion to Our Lady. He was a great evangelist. People loved listening to him. He was a very interesting man. You could have written a book about him.

“In the midst of this, the war in Bosnia broke out. Reggie started bringing containers to Medjugorje supplying food. He did this through the war and then he was involved in Operation Santa.”

Operation Santa saw thousands of toys and clothes donated in Northern Ireland shipped to the war-ravaged country through Mr Donnelly’s work as director of the Good Shepherd Foundation for Needy Children.

The father-of-six was involved with other charities, including Nobody’s Children, which brought casualties of the war in Bosnia to Ireland for treatment, persuading doctors south of the border to donate their services free of charge.

Ms Reynolds continued: “He has done so much great work to help so many people. He has brought religion back to a lot of people.

“He was known as ‘Reggie Gorje’, going to Medjugorje on every trip. He was a legend. He touched so many people’s hearts. He will never be forgotten.”

Mr Donnelly’s Requiem Mass will take place at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church at midday. It will be conducted by his brother-in-law Fr Pat Neeson, parish priest of Ardkeen, Co Down.

His death came 10 days after his daughter Maria Mercer died from cancer at the age of 51, three months after being diagnosed.

Mr Donnelly is survived by sons John, Martin and Gerard and daughters Una and Ciara.

Belfast Telegraph

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