“Going home to God”: Father Noel Prendergast passes at age 90

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Just shy of sixty-six years a priest, Father Noel Prendergast entered eternal life on May 26, 2024.

He was born Jan. 1, 1934, the youngest of John and Mary Prendergast’s seven children. He was born at Christmastime, so that’s where Noel came from, Father Prendergast once told Mississippi Catholic.

He studied six years at St. Patrick’s College and Seminary in Carlow, Ireland; and was ordained in that city’s Catholic cathedral on June 7, 1958. It was Prendergast’s choice to spend his entire priesthood in Mississippi, giving up cold, wet winters and springs for the occasional snow and frequent hot temperatures native to the Deep South.

Father Prendergast and three other priests arrived in Mississippi in September 1958. His first assignment was to Nativity Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Biloxi as an associate pastor.

Four years later, he was moved to St. Mary’s Church in Jackson, where he served for two years as associate pastor. Father Prendergast once remarked that he “saw it more of an adventure,” since the parish also had a school.

From there, he was transferred to Mercy Hospital in Vicksburg, where he was chaplain. He left after three years for his first pastorate at Assumption Church in Natchez in 1967.

Father Prendergast became a U.S. citizen in the mid-1960s. “I figured if I was going to live here, I needed to be a citizen and take part in voting,” Prendergast recalled in 2018 for his sixtieth anniversary celebration.

CLINTON – Father Noel Prendergast stands in the sanctuary of Holy Savior Clinton in this file photo. He passed away at age 90 on Sunday, May 26. (Photo from archives)

Just two years after arriving in Natchez, Bishop Joseph Brunini assigned him as pastor of Gulf Coast Missions in Gulfport. He enjoyed returning to the coast, as he missed the sea, as he was only about 30 minutes from the ocean in his native Ireland.

Another two short years later, he was on his way to Annunciation parish in Columbus, where he served as pastor for 10 years. “You really got to know the people and appreciate them, and they appreciated what you did for them,” Father Prendergast once said.

His next stop was St. Michael’s Church in Vicksburg in September 1980, where he remained for 12 years. During his tenure, Father Prendergast helped oversee the construction of a new church structure, while the old church building became the parish hall.

His next assignment, in 1991, was Holy Savior in Clinton and Immaculate Conception in Raymond, where he remained 12 years.

In 2003, he found himself at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Yazoo City, where he remained until he requested retirement at age 75 in 2008.

Father Prendergast chose to come to Mississippi, and he chose to stay in Mississippi. At his 60th ordination anniversary celebration in 2018, Father Prendergast said that he came back to Clinton because he couldn’t “stand the weather over there” in Ireland and that he knew more people in Mississippi than he did in Ireland. Mississippi had become his home.

He enjoyed the life of a retiree, taking annual trips back to his homeland in Ireland to visit family; and also spending time on the golf course with his fellow priests and filling in occasionally at his home parish of Holy Savior Clinton. Father PJ Curley played golf with him nearly every Monday and Friday for 40 years, developing a deep friendship as fellow golfers and Irish priests.

“Imagine the eternal hug from God to Noel, who is in his image and in his likeness,” said Father Curley during the funeral Mass for Father Prendergast. “What a beautiful thought what a beautiful image. Going home to God.”

“Father Noel Prendergast is home, safe and sound.”