Monkstown bus tragedy: Fr Con was 'our friend, my hero, the man, the missionary, the people’s priest' 

Monkstown bus tragedy: Fr Con was 'our friend, my hero, the man, the missionary, the people’s priest' 

The hearse departed for Kilmacomogue Cemetary as members of St. Colums GAA Club formed a guard of honour. Picture: Andy Gibson.

MONKSTOWN crash victim Fr Con Cronin has been described by his nephew as “our friend, my hero, the man, the missionary, the people’s priest” at his funeral.

Fr Con’s nephew Colm Cronin delivered a eulogy at his funeral Mass in St Joseph’s Church in Coomhola earlier today. Fr Con’s brother Teddy led mourners, along with other relatives.

The hearse departed for Kilmacomogue Cemetary as members of St. Colums GAA Club formed a guard of honour. Picture: Andy Gibson.
The hearse departed for Kilmacomogue Cemetary as members of St. Colums GAA Club formed a guard of honour. Picture: Andy Gibson.

72-year-old Fr Con was one of two people who lost their lives in the crash on Tuesday. The other victim, bus driver Mark Wills, was laid to rest in Ballincollig earlier this afternoon. Gardai believe the 51-year-old had suffered a medical trauma which caused him to lose control of the single-decker bus involved in the accident.

Colm Cronin said Fr Con loved journeys and that the family were very comforted by the number of people paused as his cortege from Passage West to Coomhola yesterday passed through the Harbour Parishes of Monkstown, Ringaskiddy and Shanbally. He described the turn out from people as phenomenal.

Many people came to pay their last respects to Fr. Con before the funeral started in St. Joseph's Church, Coomhola. Picture: Andy Gibson.
Many people came to pay their last respects to Fr. Con before the funeral started in St. Joseph's Church, Coomhola. Picture: Andy Gibson.

He said priesthood was his uncle’s life and recalled regular letters being written to and received from Fr Con during his 25 years in Nigeria.

He added: “He was non judgemental. He was a man of the people.” Fr Con found his home in the Harbour Parishes when he went to minster there in 2012, the congregation heard.

Colm Cronin said that his uncle was troubled by the Covid pandemic “because he could not get out and be among people.” He thanked the people of the Harbour Parishes for calling to him during the pandemic.

He urged people not to be sad for Fr Con because he managed to pack so much in to his 72 years.

He added: “He lived life, he loved life. He can have no regrets.” 

During the Prayers of the Faithful, prayers were offered for the people of Fr Con’s native Borlin, his fellow priests in St Patrick’s Missionary Society, his parishioners in Nigeria, Castlerea and the Harbour Parishes, and Mark Wills and his family.

Prayers were also said for those who attended to Fr Con and Mark Wills at the scene of the accident last Tuesday.

In his eulogy, Colm Cronin said friendships had been formed with the family of Mark Wills and both families met in Passage West yesterday.

As his coffin left the church where he had been baptised, received First Communion and celebrated his first Mass, a polka was played.

Gave his life for his friend 

A priest who was a former classmate of Monkstown crash victim Fr Con Cronin told his funeral Mass this afternoon that there is no greater love than to give your life for your friend.

Fr Thomas O’Connor of St Patrick’s Missionary Society said compassion and kindness were the hallmarks of his priestly ministry, adding that creed, race, gender or colour were not important to Fr Con.

He recalled: “He treated everyone as an individual and helped everyone to be their true selves.” 

He continued: “His last act was to push his friend from the path of the oncoming bus and thus save her life. Sadly, he himself was unable to miss the impact.”

He and his friend had just left the Bosun in Monkstown when the accident occurred.

Earlier in his homily, Fr O’Connor said: “I think most of us will remember for the rest of our lives where we were when we heard about the tragic events in Monkstown last Tuesday afternoon which claimed the lives of our dear friend Con and the bus driver, Mark Wills”.

Prayers for Mark Wills

Prayers were said at Fr Con’s Mass for Mark Wills and his family.

Fr O’Connor said the crash had left people asking: “Why Con, why Mark, why this terrible tragedy. We are left with so many questions.” 

He said there had been an outpouring of grief, shock and sadness following the crash.

He said the Borlin valley where Fr Con had grown up had a very special in his life, adding: “It is fitting that it is here that we celebrate his funeral Mass.” 

He described Fr Con as generous to a fault, and said: “He would give you the shirt off his back.”

He recalled the early days of Fr Con’s life, when he had to forego secondary school to stay at home to care for his sick mother. When his mother died, he travelled to Scotland to do his secondary schooling before becoming a priest with St Patrick’s Missionary Society.

Fr. Yusuf Bamai, Roscommon and Fr. Douglas John Zaggi, Cavan were present at the funeral. The two fathers worked with Fr. Con when he was a missionary in Nigeria for 25 years. Picture: Andy Gibson.
Fr. Yusuf Bamai, Roscommon and Fr. Douglas John Zaggi, Cavan were present at the funeral. The two fathers worked with Fr. Con when he was a missionary in Nigeria for 25 years. Picture: Andy Gibson.

He spent more than 25 years in Nigeria, as well as two years in Castlerea in Roscommon. He has been in the Harbour Parishes since 2012.

During the livestream of the Mass, photos of Fr Con during his time in Nigeria as well with members of his family were shown.

He is to be laid to rest following the Mass, at Kilmacomogue cemetery near Bantry.

EARLIER: TRIBUTES from the diocese in Nigeria where Fr Con Cronin served have been sent to the Bishop of Cork and Ross following his death in Tuesday’s horror bus crash in Monkstown.

At the beginning of his funeral Mass in St Joseph’s Church in his native Coomhola near Bantry this afternoon, Bishop Fintan Gavin told Fr Cronin’s family and friends that the bishop of a Nigerian diocese which Fr Con had help to found had written to Bishop Gavin. 

He told Bishop Gavin that if times were different, he would have travelled to Ireland for the funeral.

Bishop Gavin also said he received communication from the Papal Nuncio, Most Reverend Jude Thaddeus Okolo, who is originally from Nigeria. 

Fr Cronin was a member of St Patrick’s Missionary Society and had ministered in the Minna Diocese in Nigeria for over 25 years.

Bishop Gavin was joined at today’s ceremony by the Bishop of Meath, Dr Tom Deenihan, and priests from the Cork and Ross society and St Patrick’s Missionary Society.

Many people came to pay their last respects to Fr. Con before the funeral started in St. Joseph's Church, Coomhola. Picture: Andy Gibson.
Many people came to pay their last respects to Fr. Con before the funeral started in St. Joseph's Church, Coomhola. Picture: Andy Gibson.

Bishop Gavin said that Fr Con had wanted to have his funeral Mass in St Joseph’s Church. It was where the popular priest was baptised, and where his First Communion ceremony took place. It is also where he celebrated his first Mass.

Bishop Gavin said many lives had been touched by the ministry of Fr Con.

He spoke of his “deep compassion, his humanity, his openness, and his non judgementalness”.

And he recalled receiving a letter from Fr Con when Bishop Gavin came to service as the Bishop of Cork and Ross, to welcome him and said that the church needs to “reach out to the young flock”.

The floral tributes to Fr. Con. Picture: Andy Gibson.
The floral tributes to Fr. Con. Picture: Andy Gibson.

Three gifts were brought to the altar at the start of the ceremony to recognise Fr Con’s love of communication – a radio, a pen and paper, and a mobile phone.

The congregation was told that the radio was very important to him, especially when he was in Nigeria. He wrote many letters of the years, especially to his family when he was in Nigeria.

Prayers were also said for the bus driver who died in the same crash.

Mark Wills, 51, was laid to rest in Ballincollig this afternoon.

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