Homily for the funeral Mass of Fr Peter Cryan, OCD - given by Fr Pat Beecher, OCD
"I am the Resurrection and the life, those who believe in me
even though they die, will live, says the Lord."
"I am the living bread which has come down from heaven;
anyone who eats this bread will live forever."
We are gathered here today in faith to pay our final respects to Fr Peter Cryan who went to his eternal reward peacefully last Tuesday. We thank God for his long and fruitful life and we pray that the good Lord has rewarded him for his labours and has forgiven any sins he may have committed through human frailty and that he is at peace.
We pray also for all who mourn his passing that they may be comforted, and that God will fill the void left in their lives. I think particularly of his sister Mairin, sister-in- law Mary, nephews, nieces, grand nephews, grand nieces, the parishioners here in St. Joseph's, his Carmelite brothers and sisters, his devoted nurse Margy Lee and his many friends.
When I was preparing this homily, I used the notes that Fr Peter had specially prepared for his funeral Mass. What came across very clearly from these notes was that Father didn't want us to be sad or mournful today. We were to wear white vestments in honour of the Resurrection of the Lord. We were to thank God for his life, leave him to the mercy of God and place all our hopes in the risen Lord.
Jim Cryan was born in America in 1931. Because of family circumstances he spent much of his boyhood in Sligo. Having completed his national schooling, he studied in Carmelite College Castlemartyr. He spent one year in our noviciate in Loughrea Co. Galway and was professed on 12th Sept 1950, taking the name Peter as a religious. He joined his brother Jack (Fr Philip) in the Carmelite Order. He studied philosophy and theology in Dublin and was ordained priest on 22nd December 1956. As a young priest he studied spirituality in Rome. His first appointment was in Loughrea Co. Galway.
Later he served in Kensington, Castlemartyr, Derry and here in Berkeley Rd. In all these houses his sense of humour, common sense and great humanity was appreciated by everyone he came into contact with. His love of community and deep devotion to the Blessed Eucharist were evident to all.
In 1995 I was travelling with him to Letterkenny for the episcopal ordination of Bishop Boyce and on our way, we visited a Mass Rock outside Sligo. It was there he told me that he got his first urge to become a priest. He was really impressed at the sacrifices the priests and people made in Penal times to celebrate Mass. One day after serving mass at this Mass Rock he rushed home to tell his mother that he wanted to be a priest. His mother, practical woman that she was, said to him, "Eat your dinner. If God wants you to be a priest, He will see to it."
God, in his providence, used the visit of a Carmelite priest, Fr Joseph Mc Elhinney, to Sligo to put his plan of action into motion that would one day see Bro Peter ordained priest on December 22nd, 1957. Fr Peter used often recall his transfer from Loughrea to Kensington. Fr Gabriel Barry was Provincial at that time and one day before Christmas he phoned Fr Peter and said, "Take the first train in the morning to help out at Kensington." His helping out lasted over thirty years. In those thirty years he fulfilled many roles: priest, religious, mentor, Superior, Provincial Delegate among others. The fact that so many people kept in contact with him right through the years even though he was long gone from Kensington - and indeed some made the sacrifice to be here today - is a proof of the deep impression he made on them.
After a particular chapter Fr Peter was appointed for a short time Student Master. He used to recall often this event and thanked God that he was spared such a responsible position.
He returned to Castlemartyr in 1990. Now Castlemartyr hadn't changed much since he was there as a pupil. He frequently referred to it "as down town Castlemartyr". It was while he was in Castlemartyr that I got to know him and worked closely with him and really appreciated his many talents. He loved the college, its beautiful oratory, the castle, lakes and green pastures. In 1997 when the school was closed, Bishop Magee offered us the running of the parish. This was a joint effort between the local clergy and us. Fr Peter had the distinction of being the first religious priest in the history of the diocese to be to be appointed Parish Priest. For three years, with great sensitivity and dedication, he committed himself totally to the project.
In 1999 he was transferred to our retreat centre in Derry. While there he used his gifts as a preacher in giving talks and lectures. He even taped his talks just to see how they could be improved - not that they needed much improvement. I am told also that when in Derry he used to attend a second Mass in a city parish regularly.
In 2002 he was transferred to St Joseph's, Berkeley Rd. Here again he endeared himself to young and old. I have heard of people coming to this church just to hear his sermons. In 2011 I was transferred to St Joseph's and again I renewed my friendship with him. Yes, he had got older and feebler, but he had not lost any of his sense of humour or his determination, his love for the Blessed Sacrament and of community life. We used to travel to the Bull Wall from time to time and while he used regularly mention to me his chosen place of burial beside his parents, overlooking Howth bay. While at Berkeley Rd he celebrated the golden and platinum jubilee of his ordination. These events brought out very clearly his love for priesthood and his Carmelite vocation and his family. He was amused at the goings on of the Carmelite brothers and sisters!
The story of his illnesses would take too long to go into detail in a homily like this. Sufficient for me to say he literally had nine lives, some would say 29. He was at death's door more than once. He loved life, had great determination and never felt sorry for himself. I have no doubt but that he offered up all his sufferings with Jesus for the good of the church. He accepted his last illness with great dignity. He had made his peace with God and was ready whenever the Lord called him. His last few months were blessed to be under the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor. He was near his sister Mairin and was most grateful for her visits. When Dirk, Grainne's husband, died his attitude was, "He beat me to it."
Frank's sudden death about this time last year was a real killer blow for him. However, he officiated at Frank’s funeral but gradually his health began to wane. He really appreciated being able to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. One day he expressed to me his appreciation of being able to attend all the Holy Week ceremonies this year. He attended our Good Friday service here in Berkeley Rd and was delighted to meet so many of the parishioners. He even went to Avila for Easter Sunday and appreciated the meal and the banter. On Easter Tuesday Fr Martin and I visited him. He was in pain but in good form and we chatted for over a half an hour. He wished my nephew, Martin, blessings on his wedding day. After my nephew's wedding I was taking it easy in Cork. I was saying to myself that no news is good news. Sadly, Fr Peter went to his eternal reward quietly peacefully in the afternoon of Tuesday. I pray that he has now joined his parents, his brothers, his extended family and his Carmelite brothers and sisters in heaven.
I know he would like me to express his gratitude for all who cared for him over the years - the doctors, nurses, carers, etc. However, I think it is not out of place to mention in particular his Kensington friend, Margy Lee. She went well beyond the call of duty in caring for him, and in a special way in his last illness. I have no doubt but that Fr Peter would have long gone to his grave only for her love and dedication. Margy, may the good Lord reward you for your generosity and commitment.
Fr Peter had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land on a number of occasions. It was from these pilgrimages that he really appreciated sacred scripture. He used of say that every clerical student should spend some time in the Holy Land just to know sacred scripture and to love Jesus. The passages which he picked for today's Mass give us a clue to his love of Jesus Christ and his trust in Him. The first reading for example tells us, "The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God, no torment shall ever touch them. In the eyes of the unwise they did appear to die, their going like a disaster. But they are in peace."
In the Letter of St John for today's second reading, he emphasises the importance of thinking about God's love for us as proved by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. Because of our baptism, we are, here and now, children of God but our future is even greater. We shall be like God and see him as he really is. I pray that Fr Peter is now enjoying eternal bliss. No more pain no more sorrow - all these have passed away.
In today's Gospel it is clear that Jesus knew that his disciples would be upset and lonely when he had gone. So, to soften the blow for them, he reminded them that where he had gone they one day would follow. To the statement, "You know to the place where I am going," Thomas answered, "Lord we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" To this Jesus replied, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." We are naturally lonely and upset at the passing of a brother, uncle, confrere, parishioner, friend. Our faith in the risen Lord will help us keep going no matter what life throws at us. In the meantime, let us keep smiling, realising that one day we shall all meet again when the love of Christ which conquers all things will destroy death itself.
Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, may he rest in peace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.