About Fr. Maurice Spillane
Father Maurice Spillane's love for Ireland was evident when he frequently described - with a thick, melodious brogue - the beauty of his native country. Spillane was born in 1914 in County Kerry, Ireland, son of the late Mary and Thomas Spillane. He pursued a degree in civil engineering but decided his life would be better served as a priest.
He studued at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, where all lectures were delivered in Latin or Italian. The exposure gave Spillane command of these languages, in addition to his native Gaelic and English.
Spillane was ordained to priesthood for the Diocese of Raleigh on April 4, 1942, in St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome and then returned to Ireland. His trip was difficult because World War II was raging. He traveled through France, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal, where he sat in an airport for three weeks while waiting for a flight.
Upon his return, Spillane studied Canon Law (the liturgical law of the Catholic Church) and received a Master's Degree at Manoth University in Ireland.
He then traveled to North Carolina where he began his mission to instill in the people the love of God and love for each other. He left his mark on many communities in the state from east to west, leaving behind a rash of new buildings, major renovations and solvent parishes.
Parish Secretary of Saint Stephen Catholic Church in Sanford, North Carolina in the 1980s.
On September 7, 1975, the Father Maurice Spillane Council (Council 6717) in Sanford, NC was granted charter by the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus in North Carolina. Father Spillane, Chaplain of the Council, was named Chaplain of the Year in 1984.
"I met Father Spillane in 1972, and knew him to be a delightful man, with an abiding love for God and the church. He often had a twinkle in his eye, and you knew that he was either going to kid you, or had good news to share.
He enjoyed talking, but many people couldn't understand his sermons...because of the brogue. So great was his gift of gab that I couldn't get my work done, and frequently had to stay beyond regular hours.
Father Spillane had a knack for making do, and could squeeze ten cents out of five cents. There weren't many Catholics in the area then, and the parish school survived because of his determination.
He had two Irish setters (one of which was named Kerry), and he typically spent lunchtime on the playground with the dogs and the students.
Father came to be transferred to Saint Paul's in New Bern, North Carolina (Diocese of Raleigh) in January of 1976, but he would return throughout the year to see his doctor, and others of us in the parish.
Vivian Branch - 01/05/10
Parish Manager of Saint Peter Catholic Church in Greenville, North Carolina since 1975.
Diocese of Raleigh
In 1963..., "Fr. Spillane came to St. Peter's from Mount Airy with a brogue that could be cut with a knife. In a few months though, the 389 members of the parish became accustomed to the language of County Kerry. During Father Spillane's tenure, the Voice of America selected Greenville as a location for their transmission stations. The first people to arrive with Voice of America were electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and an architect, headed by Max Swaboda. Father Spillane organized a Men's Club which was made up of these generous and talented people. He also organized a Women's Club who provided the parish with funds for many of the changes that occurred..... Father Spillane loved the children in the school and almost everyday could be seen doing lunch hour duty on the playground. It was also during this time that Burroughs Wellcome located a major plant in Greenville. This occurred in 1970. This caused the parish to grow significantly as many of the employees of the newly opened plant were Catholic. In 1976, Father Spillane was transferred to Saint Paul's in New Bern and Father J. Paul Byron arrived to become the new pastor for 565 parishioners."
- From "Saint Peter's Catholic Church: Dedication, pp 20-21, March 13, 1991.
By the 1950s, a number of converts were adding to a growing population of Catholics in Surry County, North Carolina. Appointed pastor of Holy Angels Church in Mount Airy, NC in 1953, Father Maurice Spillane also played a key role in the construction of a church about 35 miles to the southwest, St. Stephen in Elkin, NC.
Also during Father Spillane's pastorate, parishioners living along Highway 58/221 in Virginia began making their way to Mount Airy for Mass. Several years later, they began a parish centered in Woodlawn, Va., and built a church placed under the patronage of St. Joseph.
Acquisitions of property during the 1960s and '70s broadened the church grounds in Mount Airy. The church, rectory and a house for catechetical and social events were also refurbished.
Holy Angels Church, Mount Airy, NC
Diocese of Charlotte