Homily of Bishop Brennan for the Funeral Mass of Msgr Patrick J Corish, former President of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth

15 Jan 2013

Homily of Bishop Denis Brennan for the Funeral Mass of Monsignor Patrick J Corish, former President of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth

Saint Aidan’s Cathedral Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Diocese of Ferns – Preacher and Principal Celebrant: Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns

“When I die,” George Bernard Shaw said, “I want to be all used up.” These words very accurately describe the passing of the late Monsignor Paddy Corish.

When his home call came last Thursday morning his life was indeed “all used up.” All used up living out his priesthood, all used up serving the church, all used up relishing and celebrating the daily wonder of being alive.

Back in 1990 a Japanese writer published a book which caused a stir in academic circles at the time, it was called The End of History.  Monsignor Paddy’s passing may not be the end of history but it is certainly the end of an era.

It is the end of an era for his family and many friends.

It is the end of an era for Maynooth, the place Monsignor Paddy called home for the last 72 years.

It is the end of an era for our Diocese of Ferns. Monsignor Paddy was the senior priest of our diocese and even though he never served in the diocese, because of his longevity and personality he was seen as a patriarchal figure.

He had a deep love and loyalty to Ferns and Wexford and though his life was lived out in the service of the church nationally he never forgot us and until recent years returned frequently.

We for our part took pride in the contribution Paddy made to the life and work of the Church in Ireland and further afield.

He was liked and admired by all who knew him. Over the years he had developed an impish, good-humoured line in pessimism. This combined with his perfectly timed sigh and lugubrious look became his trademark.  I called to see him before Christmas and because it wasn’t Conference time in Maynooth, when I walked in he said to me “what are you doing in these parts?” I said “I have come to wish you Happy Christmas,” he just smiled.

We had our usual chat about the current state of affairs in Church and State, we concluded as we normally did that the centre wouldn’t hold and that the end was nigh.  Then Paddy cheered up and said “ah, it should be alright for my time.”

So I said “can I say that you are optimistic in the short term?” He now realised that he had probably gone too far and was in danger of appearing exuberant, so he paused for a moment, looked over my shoulder and with the familiar sigh said “that might be stretching it a bit.”

A martyr bishop Oscar Romero has written of priests “we plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.”  Most priests do that in a pastoral situation.  Monsignor Paddy did it in academia, in Saint Patrick’s Seminary. He did so in a very pastoral and priestly way which made a deep and lasting impression on his students.  For over fifty years he planted seeds in the hearts and minds of young men preparing for priesthood, seeds of faith and hope, seeds of affection and dedication to the Church.

He was a superb lecturer but as one of his past pupils said “he didn’t really lecture at all, he told the story.”  He told the story with a warmth and a wisdom forged out of his own spiritual journey, a wisdom garnered from his wide learning and his own experience of life.

Paddy had an understated but passionate love for the Church.  While he would agree with John Tracy Ellis who used to introduce his courses on Church history by saying “Ladies and gentlemen, be prepared to discover that the Mystical Body of Christ has a lot of warts” he would also concur with de Lubac when he confessed “for what would I ever know of Him, without her.”

To the end he remained current in his thinking, staying abreast of events and new approaches.  Monsignor Paddy enjoyed and was horrified in equal measure at the antics and acrobatics of the human condition, a study which both perplexed and tickled him!

Paddy was a man of lasting values – a believer and a follower.  I remember him standing at this ambo in 1984 and urging us “to stick to the hard centre.”

He was a man of God for whom faith and reason rhymed.  He had a capacity to respect the requirements of angels and traditions while also acknowledging new developments and current challenges.

The seeds that Monsignor Paddy planted during his long tenure in Maynooth will have taken root and borne fruit in the lives of priests all over Ireland and indeed all over the world.

For this we give thanks today. We feel a sense of gratitude that Monsignor Paddy was part of our lives for so long, part of our special moments as family, part of our special moments as seminary, part of our special moments as diocese.

In an age of rotas and rosters, job sharing and flexi-breaks his has been an amazing record of service and dedication.  Priesthood wasn’t something he did, it was something he was, it was his life.  The words of Paul to Timothy are very apt at this time “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith.”

We pray that the crown of righteousness which Paul goes on to speak of to Timothy has been bestowed on a good and faithful servant, a great Churchman and a good Christian.

May his gentle, good natured soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.


  •   Please note that this homily was delivered on Sunday 13 January 2013

For media contact: Diocese of Ferns Communications Office, Director – Father John Carroll 00 353 53 9122177, mobile: 0879898424, email – [email protected] and, the Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: 00353 (1) 5053017.