FR Tony Coote
Fr Tony Coote packed an unbelievable amount into his 55 years and without a doubt his legacy will live on for many years to come. He was born in Dublin’s Holles Street Hospital on Bloomsday, June 16th 1964.
Tony grew up in Dublin’s Fairview with his brothers and parents before moving to Santry in the mid-1970s. At the age of 21 he decided on the priesthood and entered the seminary at Clonliffe in September 1985.
Ordained in 1991, he was appointed chaplain to Ballymun Comprehensive secondary school (The Comp), where he is remembered fondly and the Sisters of Charity in Drumcondra. In 2000 he was appointed chaplain at UCD where in 2003 he set up the UCD Volunteers Overseas (UCDVO) in response to the desire of students to engage in voluntary work abroad. He was appointed administrator of Mount Merrion parish in 2008 and of Kilmacud parish also in 2009.
Fr Tony Coote was just fifty-three years old in February 2018 when he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease on a cold, snowy unforgettable day.
Upon his diagnosis Tony was appalled to learn how underfunded MND was in Ireland so five months later in July 2018 he took matters into his own hands. Tony organised and took part in Walk While You Can, a fundraising walk from Letterkenny, County Donegal to Ballydehob, County Cork to raise money and awareness of the disease. The walk of over 550 kilometres received national attention with Tony completing the journey in his wheelchair in 4 weeks in every weather condition imaginable.
People from all walks of life joined Tony along the way, some knew him, but many didn’t and were simply moved by his bravery and determination. He brought people out onto the rural streets of Ireland and over €700,000 was raised for the IMNDA and Research Motor Neurone. The IMNDA were able to employ a 4th MND Nurse thanks to the success of this phenomenal challenge.
A documentary about Tony’s incredible feat ‘Walking the Walk’ was broadcast on RTE One television in December 2018 of that year generating even more awareness and funds.
That same month, Tony was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from UCD for outstanding service to the community recognising the role he played with the now nationwide student-led mental health movement 'Please Talk', and for his work in setting up UCD Volunteer Overseas.
The force of Fr Tony Coote continued as he lived by his own mantra of ‘Live While You Can’ and wrote a bestselling book of that name about his life. The book was launched in May 2019 in front of over 2,000 people at the Church of St Thérèse in Mount Merrion.
With typical humour and honesty, he told the attendees, in words which also appeared on a screen as his speech had deteriorated by then:
“I’m mortified by tonight. But I am also deeply grateful. Let’s face it, the next time I will be wheeled down the main aisle of a full church I will be in a wooden box. Sorry, but you need a good sense of humour to live with an illness like this. And sometimes the humour is very dark…I feel now that I am aboard a fast train with only one stop. I am not in a mad hurry to disembark. I’m like everyone else; I only know this world and this life. But I see no meaning in this life ending in a grave. When the train stops, I will step onto that platform with hope and no fear.”
Fr Tony sadly passed away on 28th August 2019. A few weeks after his death over 1000 people came together and walked in his memory in Dublin’s Phoenix Park in the shadow of the Papal Cross.
We will continue what Tony started and walk where we can, while we can.