RECEPTION OF THE REMAINS OF FATHER TONY COOTE
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Church of Saint Laurence O’Toole, Kilmacud, 6pm 1 September 2019
“When one day the train arrives in that Station, I will get out onto the platform with hope and no fear”.
These are extraordinary words spoken by Father Tony Coote just a few months ago in the packed Church in Mount Merrion at the presentation of his book.
They are words of someone who knew that the train would one day come into that final earthly station, but who as his health deteriorated day by day did not know when that day would come. The prognosis was full of uncertainties. For Tony that did not matter. He lived every day and inspired every day until the end.
A little more than a year and a half ago, Tony was the energetic Parish Priest of two parishes and the Administrator of a third one. He brought renewal and enthusiasm to the Parishes in which he worked. He was full of ideas for the future.
He had a great affection for this Church and this parish. From the first day of his appointment here, he had ideas about the Church and he quickly achieved them. I remember however that his project involved not just the renewal of the Church building, but also a Pastoral Plan for three years setting out to ensure that the Parish of Saint Laurence O’Toole should become truly a “Parish for all”.
Tony’s vision was of a community of believers where those who suffer and are troubled or who fall into sin and distress or who feel abandoned are never rejected but are encountered with love and mercy and support. He realised that message of Jesus can free us to be the free men and women that God wishes each of us to be, free not to be entrapped in selfishness and narcissism, but free to bring that love of Jesus to all and to lead them step by step to the fullness of freedom.
Tony was full of ideas for the future. A different future began however to emerge. He had fallen in his house and he began to be a little worried. There was no simple explanation. He was worried but never did he expect what he was about to be told: Motor Neuron Disease!
Tony was always someone with determination. Motor Neuron Disease did not rob him of that determination. He began a new stage in his life. Rather than making us feel sorry for him, Tony made us feel humbled in the face of what he could do.
I express my sympathy to his mother and to his family members. Tony loved them all and they loved him and stood with him and were inspired by him and were proud of him over these difficult months. I express sympathy to his close priest friends who were so good to him and must be devastated by his departure. I thank his carers and the many who supported him and kept his spirits up.
All of us who knew Tony stand here in sorrow. To remember Tony truly we must go away changing ourselves and recognising how each of us depends on the hand of God who is there challenging us in surprising ways to focus on how the humanising power of Jesus Christ can change our own ideas of power and powerlessness, can change hearts and humanise our harsh society. That is how we should remember Tony.
We have heard in these days many people tell their own stories of what Tony meant for them. We get a glimpse of the enormity of the priestly ministry of Tony over 28 years, in Ballymun, in UCD and here in this area. For Tony it was not a question of enormity, but of a myriad of individual simple gestures of kindness and support, of love and respect for young and old, for the conventional and the unconventional, for the orthodox and the unorthodox. Tony planned “A parish for all” because his own heart was a parish for all.
The reading reminds us “nothing can come between us and the love of God, even if we are troubled and worried of being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes or being threatened or even attacked”. For so many who were troubled and distressed and excluded, Tony unobtrusively represented that love of God.
Tony represented the love of God to so many who bore in their heart troubles and doubts. He could do that because he understood what that love of God meant.
What enabled Tony to become such a powerful witness? How was it that his power of witness grew each day, just as his ordinary human strength began to wane? Tony held firm to the words of our reading “With God on our side who can be against us”.
He did not necessarily put that into words, but it was in his heart. He never gave up. He made his own these other words of the reading: “For I am certain of this: neither death nor life… nothing that exists or nothing still to come… can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
Tony translated these deep words of Saint Paul about trust and hope in the love of God into his own words: “When one day the train arrives in that Station, I will get out onto the platform with hope and no fear”. Thank you Tony. Thank you Lord for giving us Tony. ENDS
Fr. Tony Coote, Administrator, Church of St. Thérèse Church, Mount Merrion and St. Laurence O’Toole Church, Kilmacud died on Wednesday last. Peacefully, after a courageous battle, at his home.