Fr. Joseph Campion, SAC, (1937-2017).
Dear Bishop Seamus Freeman, Monsignor Michael Ryan, my dear brothers and sisters (or, as Fr Joe would say, my dear sisters and brothers). We are gathered here today to say ‘slán go fóill’ or ‘adios’ to Fr Joe, or Fr Jose, as he was known to many. We bid him farewell in the sure and certain hope engendered in the First Reading from the prophet Isaiah (Is 25, 6-9) at this requiem Mass, the sure hope that Fr Joe is at the heavenly banquet with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that what is promised here in Isaiah, ‘a banquet of rich food, the removal of mourning, that the Lord will wipe away tears from every cheek, will take away his people’s shame, and will destroy death forever,’ is Joe’s experience, his reality, now. We are blessed that we can turn to Sacred Scripture for consolation, peace, encouragement and even correction at times, and Joe’s niece Caitriona and her cousins knew that they would find in the Bible the readings that would speak to them in their sadness at Joe’s death when they were planning this Mass.
Both the first and second readings today are sources of strong hope; Isaiah was writing seven hundred years before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and in this reading we have one of the first references to eternal life in the Bible and what it might be like, it is presented as a lavish banquet, a special heavenly banquet where tears are wiped away, where shame is removed, mourning is ended, and most importantly of all, where God will destroy death forever, he will destroy the power of death to engender fear and to take heart from us as we live.
Our vision is sharpened with the second reading from the First Letter of St John (1 Jn 3, 1-2), written nearly eight hundred years after the Isaiah reading; John, the apostle and evangelist, shares the conviction of his old-age regarding the after-life, both the element which is unknown, and cannot be known, and also the spiritual certainty which is the fruit of years of reflection and prayer; it can be summed up as: (1) we are God’s children; (2) God lavishes his love on us; (3) our future is to be like him; (4) because, we shall see him as he really is. This is the hope, and the vision, which shaped Fr Joe’s life; from a very early age he sought God, he sought intimacy with him and after some initial years of searching which brought him to the Pallottines, to a short time with the Divine Word Missionaries, and some months in the Cistercian Abbey in Roscrea, he settled on the Pallottines and what was to be his spiritual home for the remaining 59 years of his life. You his family, his parish community, and we his Pallottine community, knew Fr Joe as a man of prayer, but there was nothing flamboyant about his life of prayer, he was not a man to engage in the various prayer movements which sprung up in the Church, he was a steady man of prayer, committed to community prayer, the Divine Office, Mass, the Rosary and his annual spiritual retreat. Fr Joe sought God and he is now with the God he sought throughout his life.
Fr Joe was a man who had very strong convictions which were based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and no doubt his convictions were also shaped by his experience. We are known as ‘the Pallottines’ but our proper or official title is ‘the Society of the Catholic Apostolate’; we are an apostolic community, centered on the apostolate, and that certainly was Joe’s life commitment, to the apostolate, to whatever work as a priest was put to him in his 52 years as a priest, and he was faithful up to the very end. As you know Joe had some health issues from May onwards and he was out of the parish for quite a while, but he was very, very happy to be back in the parish for the past month and to have been able to return to ministry in Castlecomer. As a Pallottine Joe ministered in Argentina from January 1966 up to 2003; he started off in the church and school of San Patricio in Mercedes; from there he went in 1975 to the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Rawson, which is a very rural parish but which covers a vast area; in 1979 he was appointed to the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Suipacha and while there he was also Director of the Secondary School of St Luis Gonzaga; in 1991 he was appointed to the Instituto Fahy, a boarding and day school in Moreno and when his time there ended he was appointed parish priest of the parish of San Patricio in San Antonio de Areco; he returned to Ireland in 2003 and was appointed to the parish in Freshford by Bishop Laurence Forristal and finally he came to Castlecomer. Fr Jose made a lasting impression wherever he worked and he also made life-long friends in each appointment.
Events in the Argentine in July 1976 marked Jose; five Pallottines, three priests and two students, were murdered in the parish of San Patricio, Belgrano in Buenos Aires on July 4th, and from then onwards Jose had an abhorrence of violence in all its forms and expressions. He was profoundly saddened by those events and found it very hard to understand such cruelty to fellow human beings and the ability of the perpetrators to return to ‘ordinary life’ after such acts. His abhorrence of violence extended to denouncing it, to avoiding conflict and arguments in the community and all visual expressions of anger and violence. On a lighter note I will share two examples of this with you; Joe’s niece Caitriona remarked that he could not even bear to watch a rugby match; many years ago Joe and I went to the cinema in Pinamar when we were on holidays together, the lights dimmed, the film started and Joe began to show signs of discomfort which quickly became audible, the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ became louder and louder as did his questions and comments regarding the protagonists, this all resulted in others urging him to ‘shsssh’, it was an uncomfortable evening, and it was not a violent film! Fr Jose was a man of peace!
I have left the reflection on the Gospel reading until now, the passage was specially chosen by Msgr Ryan and it is so apt for Joe’s funeral Mass. In this reading from the Gospel of St Mark (Mk. 10, 13-16) we hear the teaching of Jesus Christ on the Kingdom of God and on children. Fr Joe insisted that children be active and protagonists in Mass, this came from his understanding of today’s Gospel reading with Jesus’s attitude towards the ‘little children’ and he was convinced that children are the future of the Church, if there are no children involved in the Church and its liturgy, there will not be a Church of the future. Many people have spoken of this aspect of Fr Joe’s ministry since his death, some referred to it fondly, others with some exasperation, his insistence on the protagonism given to children produced mixed reactions, but Joe was adamant that it was his way.
Many tributes have been paid to Fr Jose since he died last Saturday, tributes from Freshford and Castlecomer and in particular from the Pallottine communities in Argentina; the school secretary in Suipacha recalled how as a young girl Fr Jose had them put together home-made rosary beads and take them to the railway station in the evenings before Christmas and distribute them to the passengers on the evening train while it was stationary and all the while they sang Christmas carols. And that is just one example of tributes and memories shared in recent days. Fr Joe has left a lasting legacy, he was a man of prayer, a man of peace, a priest committed to the apostolate, a man who gave public witness to his faith; and how necessary this is today. Yesterday I was in transit at Frankfurt airport on my way back from visitation in Argentina, I had a five hour stop-over, I saw signs for ‘prayer rooms’ and followed them, the three ‘rooms’ were in the same area, I entered the one marked ‘chapel’ it was a Christian ecumenical space with opaque glass walls, I prayed there for an hour or so, and could hear the door of another room open and shut frequently, I was distracted and looked and saw that it was the door to the Muslim room, I would estimate that at least 30 to 40 persons went in to it in the hour I was there, but I was the only person who entered the Christian chapel in that hour. It gave me pause for thought and I wondered about our Christian faith and the decline in public expressions of it in a place like an airport. Fr Joe lived his faith publicly and in the apostolate, we have received a legacy from him, perhaps a way to honour his memory would be our commitment to do likewise in our lives.
On behalf of our Pallottine community I offer my sympathy to Fr Joe’s sister Frances, his sisters-in-law Statia and Tess and his many nieces, nephews and extended family. A very sincere word of thanks to Msgr Michael Ryan parish priest and Diocesan Administrator, Fr Joe was very happy and fulfilled here in Castlecomer and happy to be working with you over these years, I know that he felt supported by you and that you made a good team. Thanks to the parish community of Castlecomer for all you have shown Fr Joe during his time here. Thanks to his family, and in particular to his nieces who were so good to Joe in recent months when he was not well. Thank you to Bishop Forristal who welcomed Fr Joe into the Diocese of Ossory and appointed him to Freshford, to Bishop Seamus Freeman, our Pallottine bishop, who appointed Fr Joe here, and thanks to you all for your presence here today.
This Requiem Mass is being live streamed and I know that Jose’s friends in Argentina are participating via streaming. I would like to read a message to Fr Joe from EL ARCA Movement in Moreno, a charity dedicated to poor children which Fr Jose supported, the message is directed to Jose: “Dear friend, we wanted to be present at this farewell. You were very important for everyone involved with EL ARCA through the years and working so that this world be a little better. From the day we met, your smile and your unconditional love always accompanied us. You were a great man, one of those who illuminate, who generate good things and who make better the places where they go. All the boys and girls who went through EL ARCA always remember and remind us of your greeting “Hello” and also your well-use phrase “Continue to be happy.” Dear friend, thank you for everything you did for us. Your sensitive soul and spirit will spread among all those who had the good fortune to meet you. You will always be an example for us and you will remain in our memory. We carry you in in our souls.” Betina Perona and all at EL ARCA.
Regina and friends of Fr Jose from Suipacha recorded some hymns for this Mass and sent them via link, we will now listen to one of them, and its title is “How lovely it is to see walking down from the mountains the feet of the messenger of peace.”
Fr Derry Murphy, SAC.
|Fr. Joe (José) Campion, SAC C.C. Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny and formerly of Lisduff, Errill, Co. Laois. Fr. Joe died on Saturday 21st October peacefully in Saint Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny after a short illness.
Deeply regretted by his fellow Priests and Brothers of the Pallottine Society, his sister Frances Conroy (Portlaoise), sisters-in-law Statia (Lisduff) and Tess (Levalley), nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and nephews, great grand-nieces and nephews, cousins, relatives, retired Bishops and Priests of the Diocese of Ossory & also a wide circle of friends both in Ireland and Argentina and especially in the parishes of Castlecomer and Freshford.
He is pre-deceased by his parents Edward and Margaret Campion (Lisduff), sisters Joan Fitzpatrick (St. Theresa’s Nursing Home, Thurles), Mary Raphael (died in childhood) brothers, Miko (Cork), Charlie (Lisduff), Eddie (Walkinstown and Donaghmore), Peter (Drimnagh), Paddy (Levalley), Noel (Clontarf).
Reposing at Coady’s Funeral Home, Castlecomer on Wednesday 25th October from 6pm with Vigil Prayers and Rosary at 8pm. Reposing at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Castlecomer on Thursday 26th October from 4pm. Reception Prayers and Rosary at 7pm. Requiem Mass on Friday at 12 noon followed by burial in the Old Cemetery in Rathdowney, County Laois.
No flowers please, donations if desired to the Pallottine Fathers for the continuation of Fr. Joe’s Missionary Work of 40 years in Argentina.
Reception Prayers & Requiem Mass can be viewed on www.castlecomerparish.ie.
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis”