V. Rev John Cummins, PP Abbeyleix – Funeral Arrangements & Homily

It is with deep regret and sadness I announce the sudden death of Fr John Cummins, PP Abbeyleix after a freak accident with his car at the Parochial House.

My thoughts and prayers are with Fr John’s mother, brothers and sister, his priest colleagues in Kildare and Leighlin, his team in Faith Development Services and ACCORD, Carlow and of course his many parishioners in Abbeyleix.

Also remembering his former colleagues in IT Carlow and parishioners of Carlow Cathedral Parish.

John is a tremendous loss to all of us in the Diocese. I will hold all of you in my prayers over these very difficult and lonely days.

+ Denis Nulty
Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin

Biography

Born: 17 October 1966

Ordained: 16 June 1991

His home place was Newbridge, Co Kildare.

Educated: 

Patrician Brothers Secondary School, Newbridge (1979-1984)

NUI Maynooth (1984-1987)

Pontifical University, Maynooth (1987-1990)

Carlow College, St Patricks (1990-1991)

Appointments with Dates: 

Curate Naas 1991-1995
Further Study Rome 1995-2000
Chaplain IT Carlow 2000-2005
Curate Cathedral Parish, Carlow 2005-2006
Administrator Cathedral Parish, Carlow 2006-2017
PP Abbeyleix 2017-2019

Funeral Details

Funeral arrangements for Fr John Cummins are as follows:
Reposing in the Chapel of Adoration adjoining the Church Of The Most Holy Rosary, Abbeyleix from 4pm on Friday with removal at 6.30 pm To The Church Of The Most Holy Rosary, Abbeyleix concluding with night prayer at 9pm.
Requiem Mass on Saturday at 12 noon. Removal afterwards to his family home in Newbridge.
Mass at 11am on Monday morning in St. Conleth’s Parish Church, Newbridge with interment afterwards in St. Conleth’s Cemetery, Newbridge.

Mgr John Byrne, Vicar General will receive the remains with Bishop Denis and priests of the Diocese in Abbeyleix at 6.30pm, Fr Ger Ahern will lead Night Prayer at 9pm.

Bishop Denis will celebrate the Requiem Mass and preach the homily on Saturday at 12noon in Abbeyleix.

Bishop Denis will celebrate Mass on Monday at 11am in St Conleth’s Church, Newbridge with Fr Ger Nash, classmate and very good friend of Fr John, preaching the homily.

May he rest in peace.

Bishop Denis’ homily from Requiem Mass held in Abbeyleix, Saturday February 2

Introduction

I welcome you all very warmly as we gather on this very crisp February morning, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, to pay a faith-filled farewell to John Cummins. Fr. John was Parish Priest here in Abbeyleix for eighteen months. Having served for four years in Naas; five years pursuing further studies in Rome; five years as Chaplain in IT Carlow; twelve years in the Cathedral Parish, eleven of those years its Administrator and a much too short year and half here with you in Abbeyleix.

There are so many people who feel bereft and adrift when someone so gifted, so able, so talented slips from our midst. Literally in the twinkling of an eye – life and death. To you John’s family, his mother Renee, his sister Maria, his brothers Con and Garry, his sister-in-law Yvonne, his niece Caoimhe and his nephews Conor & Daniel; to all of us his Diocesan Family, his brother priests in Kildare & Leighlin; the many religious and lay people in the diocese and beyond he worked with on different projects and plans; his classmates from the Maynooth Ordination Class of 1991 to whom he kept extraordinarily close; his colleagues at Faith Development Services; his friends in ACCORD, and indeed in so many other features of diocesan life that no words of mine could ever adequately encapsulate. To each of you I simply extend my prayers and sympathies and thank you for being here this Saturday afternoon.

We are all on a journey with John which rightly began with Mass in the Cathedral on Thursday night, continues today with his Funeral Mass here in Abbeyleix and will conclude on Monday in Newbridge, the home where his vocation was nourished with Mass before his burial in the family plot with his late dad Con who died in February 2003 in St. Conleth’s Cemetery. Echoing the eloquent words of Msgr. John at last night’s removal, we are indeed “briste agus brúite”, broken and crushed; in the inadequacy of our language and in the heartbreak of our grief, we turn to God and ask why this pain, this loss, this tragedy?

We find our answer in the Crib before us, still erected here in Abbeyleix, the gift of His Son. God’s Son came to be with us not to take any of that pain away or to find easy, simplistic answers, but He came to be with us, to accompany us and hold us in our moment of deepest pain. And so we call to mind our sins as we place John in the embrace of a loving and merciful God as we pray …

Homily

I found the last month, January, the longest in many a year. It seemed to be an age since New Year’s Day had passed and the promises and resolutions a New Year brings. Then the Magi visited with their gifts. How John loved giving gifts, I recall Fr. Ruairí’s account of how he loved Christmas and loved the ritual of buying gifts but of course the greatest gift was that of himself a son, a brother, a priest, a friend.

You might have noticed the crozier I’m using at today’s Mass is the crozier of the late Bishop Larry Ryan. Bishop Larry ordained John in 1991. In the earliest years he saw huge potential in this young priest. Bishop Jim Moriarty who will join us at the Mass in Newbridge on Monday also recognised the gifts and talents that were natural to John. He sends his prayer-filled best wishes to all of us this day.

While I found the month of January long; I found the few hours from around four-thirty last Wednesday evening the longest few hours of a very long month. Words are inadequate to thank the Garda Síochána, the Fire Brigade Service, the local undertaker and neighbours who so sensitively managed the passing of those difficult hours last Wednesday evening. Mgr. Caoimhín, Fr. Paddy and Fr. David, our youngest priest, were present that evening when words for all of us were difficult to find. Not that they are easier now, but time, liturgy and prayer and the person John was, helps all of us through these emotional, heart-wrenching days.

I know John had no regrets for the life he set out on as he started to study for the priesthood in Maynooth in 1984. He loved being a priest. He gave his life to the Church as a priest; he gave his life for the Church as a priest. Someone put it well “he made being holy positive again”. At a time when the Church needs more good priests on the pitch, it feels as if God scored an own goal last Wednesday evening. John was not just a good priest, he was a great one as tributes of recent days vouch. Mind you, the gospel, the last gospel he would have proclaimed at Mass on Wednesday morning was that of Mark where the Parable of the Sower was explained. John was that seed planted in rich soil; he nurtured it daily – we were all the beneficiaries as he led us in prayer. A prayer that came from a well nourished spring within; he didn’t need a ritual or manual. He simply had it. It’s up to us now to yield that harvest Mark’s gospel spoke about: “thirty and sixty and a hundredfold”. In 2014 I appointed him an Episcopal Vicar for Education and Evangelisation and told him in the appointment letter then it was a role that would “develop or emerge in time”. I think the past few days have been a powerful message of evangelisation as they crystallised the fondness people of all ages, of all faiths, of all levels of commitment, engagement and practice, have for their local priest. The gift of priesthood is deeply appreciated by one and all. The church is very alive and dynamic at the local parish level.

We celebrate today the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The day when Mary and Joseph presented their newborn in the Temple. Already consecrated, and Mary needed no ritual purification, in many respects this was simply following form, following duty. John Cummins would have expected and done no less. I think of the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and John had that; he would have “this thing” about certain things, everyone else’s blood pressure might be boiling, but it would have no effect at all on him.

I remember vividly my first Christmas in the Cathedral, December 2013, there were televised Masses going out on the Eurovision platform. John celebrated ‘Midnight’ with a linguistic fluidity where his words in French, Italian and German were as flawless as his English and Irish. I celebrated the Christmas Day Mass. I recall my bafflement in late January as to why the crib was still erected at the Cathedral side altar, at this stage every Christmas tree was well recycled and every other crib was long consigned to the attic. We all notice the crib is still erected here in Holy Rosary Church, Abbeyleix. John had “this thing” that Christmas didn’t properly end until today’s feast was celebrated. And with John, as we all know, there was no arguing, it was only yourself you would end up falling out with! And so, we gather today as Christmas properly ends, at least according to the Cummins ritual.

I can’t do justice to the amount of texts and emails that have poured in since Wednesday evening. The amount of messages relayed through social media. And the irony of it all is, that the subject matter in every inbox ‘Fr. John Cummins’ was very much a slow convert to even the simplest mobile. He referred to it as a “mobility phone”! Of course, rumours abound that he had a mobile for years, a Christmas gift, but he jealously guarded the number! That was until he arrived here to you in Abbeyleix in August 2017. Since then the luddite was converted! And of course, not only to the mobile, but he turned up to meetings, mostly late mind you, with an I-pad under his arm, which he furiously typed on, as the meeting progressed. His desk was never really ordered or tidy, because he was always working on something. He left his desk in Abbeyleix last Wednesday afternoon with plans to return to complete a Catholic Schools’ Week liturgy for the students of Heywood Community College the following day.

Every message, every tribute said the same thing. John was gentle, loyal, he was so pastoral, he was the essence of kindness. John was a great preacher. A great man to stay in touch with friends, as many lay as clerical, with couples he married, with former colleagues from Carlow IT, and of course with family. He never forgot Teresa Horan, who pampered many a priest during their time at the Cathedral Presbytery. The late and great St. John Paul II saw a priest as “a man for others”. I couldn’t but note the responsorial psalm refrain last Wednesday: “You are a priest forever, a priest like Melchizedek of old”. John was that priest, a priest to his finger-tips.

He wore the mantle of exceptional academic qualifications very lightly and never lost the quest to learn more. He had a razor-sharp intellect who worked wonderfully with lay people, as those in Faith Development Services and many more will attest. FDS would say they were “blessed beyond belief” to have John as their mentor, colleague and friend for the last twelve years. He helped shape, structure and support their strong team.

He had a splendid group of priests around him, (Ger, Thomas, Liam, Joe & Kevin) who met in fraternity regularly. They all completed the spiritual month in St. Beuno’s. John wore his sprituality on his sleeve, a man of deep prayer and personal reflection. On the passenger seat of his car last Wednesday evening was his Holy Communion Pyx, his Confessional stole and his Breviary. John, I have no doubt was heading out on “first Friday calls”. Little did he know he would be called himself, before ever setting out on those calls.

The words of Simeon in today’s gospel from the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord puts it succintly: “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many …”. None of us knew what destiny the Lord had in mind for John Cummins. What we do know is that the Church of Kildare & Leighlin, indeed the Irish Church is poorer at his parting.

Of course the familiar back-pack was in the car with him last Wednesday evening. It went everywhere, to St. Leo’s College on the Dublin Road in Carlow, to the Ploughing at Ratheniska, to the World Meeting of Families Congress in the RDS, even on pilgrimages and on holidays abroad with his great friend Ger Nash. Ger and John travelled to many places over 27 years, one of their next trips John was meticously planning was to be Oberammergau. I imagine the late Fintan Morris, another classmate, is having a great catch-up with John now in eternity. Probably reminding him of the year the three of them went through France, armed with a book purporting to be a guide to every religious house in France which took paying guests. The problem was that none of these convents, monasteries or presbyteries knew they were in the book. John, fluent in French spent the holiday persuading reluctant Reverend Mothers, Abbots and various other functionaries that the three were legitimate, they were the days before celebrets!

Returning briefly to the World Meeting and our Diocesan Stand. I remember the ritual each day as John, Thomas O’Byrne and myself would slip off for Mass in the middle of the afternoon, leaving one of the FDS team on duty. And then the panic set in, where was my back-pack with alb, stole, zucchetto and Cross! John immediately offered his alb, saying I had to concelebrate, he’d slip in at the back. Now the size of John and the size of me! I arrived at the Bishop’s vesting room, donning John’s alb which barely went down to my knees. Amongst the Bishop’s to regale me about the state of the mini alb was John’s two classmates Bishop Fintan and Bishop Tom. Little did I, John or they know, who had taken my back-pack but Ger. Killaloe had been using our Kandle tent, mind I add at no cost, as their RDS base also! You can imagine the ribbing Ger got for not only having an alb that was twice his size, but a zucchetto and pectoral cross to boot.

The words from the poet Felix Dennis: ‘On News of a Friend’s Sudden Death’ come to mind:

“How thin the cloth, how fine the thread
That cloaks the living from the dead;
How narrowly, from breath to breath,
We plait our rendezvous with death.

How swift the tenant flees the gate;
The landlord’s writ, come soon or late,
Foreclosing slum or stately hall,
Hard bailiffs at His beck and call.

How feather-light the feeble spark
That shields us from the greedy dark;
Unjessed our souls like falcons fly!
How weak the lure, how wide the sky!”

For a man who liked words, John mightn’t be too enamoured by that word “sky”, too many connotations around an event in the summer of 2015, a sky-dive in Clonbullogue in Offaly. Four of them dived, and silly fool I paid their diving fee! It was a fundraiser for the Cathedral Parish. If you thought John was pale, you should have met him after that sky dive! His digestive tract wasn’t back to normal for weeks. And he was the man with a super appetite, but unlike the rest of us, it never showed! He didn’t need a fit-bit, you would struggle to keep up with him! May Fr. John be welcomed this day into the embrace of a loving God in eternity and may we find strength in God’s love and in his presence with us on days like this. And I’ll stop now before I hear John whisper in my ear: “jeepers that’s more of it!”.

ENDS