Sunday 17 December 2017

We'll miss Fr Den's guiding hand

THE death occurred in Brazil, of Fr. Denis Cronin, Redemptorist who was born in Dromscarra, Kiskeam in the midst of a snow storm in 1933, alongside his twin sister Ann (Moynihan RIP).

Both were baptised at home as it was believed that that they would not survive. The second son of small farmers Mikey and Lizzie Cronin, he was raised alongside his two brothers, Johnny and Mikey (RIP), sisters Sheila (O'Donovan), Ann (Moynihan) (RIP), Mary (Firth) (RIP) and another sister, Hanna Mary, who died in infancy.

After attending Boherbue primary school, he cycled to Paddy O'Keeffe's Secondary School in Newmarket. Following the 1948 Mission in the Parish of Boherbue and Kiskeam given by the Redemptorists, Fr. Den fulfilled his wish to join the order and went to school in Limerick.

On the 20th of September, 1959 he was ordained by Bishop Browne in Clúin Mhuire in Galway. On the 21st of September, 1959 he said his first mass in the Church of the Sacred Heart, Kiskeam. In November 1961 he set off by boat to Brazil and arrived in Belém, Brazil at 5am on the 8th of December, 1961. There began a huge contribution to the Church and the development of social justice in Brazil.

On the 29th of June, 1964, Fr. Den became parish priest of Pedro Alfonso. This is an area of about half the size of Ireland. While in Pedro Alfonso, Fr. Den reformed the old church that is still there today, making it three times bigger. Other projects included a new home for the community, a new school, and the establishment of an Agricultural College which was stopped by the military dictatorship in 1964. Thus began his long and fearless struggle against the dictatorship, which he rarely spoke of.

In 1969, Fr. Den arrived in Fortaleza Ceará and began work in the new parish of St. Raymond. He was involved in the building of a new church near Parquelandia called St. Raymond.

Fr. Den then headed to Medellin, Colombia in 1976. Here he wrote a paper called "a comunhão de bens e o direto do pobre" meaning the "sharing of goods and the rights of the poor" for which he received a diploma. Fr. Den then returned to Fortaleza where he was of immense help to the Workers Movements.

From 1984 to 1988, Fr. Den served in Iguatu Ceará and in 1988, he became the Vice Provincial Burser in Fortaleza where he faced many challenges over the years. Fr. Den spent the period 2002-2007 in Parnaiba Piauí, and then relocated to the Central House in Fortaleza.

Fr. Denis was on a short holiday of one week, back to the city of Teresina where he had worked as Parish Priest back in the late 60?s, and was greatly loved. While there, he took ill during the night, got two heart attacks and died. He was 79 years of age.

There was a large funeral Mass for Fr. Denis in Teresina and he was later laid to rest in Fortaleza.

The following tribute was paid to him by his nephew, Michael Moynihan, TD:

"When Father Den first went to Brazil in 1961, it was seven years before he came first came back. Communications were not what they are now. It took about a month for a letter to arrive, but he still maintained contact throughout.

"His ministry was hugely successful both in Teresina and Fortaleza, and judging from reports from the funeral on Friday, there were huge crowds in attendance to testify to how popular and how loved he was.

"We on this side of the Atlantic, to a man, tried to convince Father Den to retire to Ireland, but his heart was in Brazil. It was ironic that it was while on a holiday in Teresina, which was a parish that he loved so well, that he passed away.

"His visits home every two years were as welcome as the flowers of May and the summers when he was around could not last long enough and he returned home for the final time a year and a half ago.

"He fought the good fight, zealously kept the faith, and ultimately won the race.

"His guiding hand was gently felt on all our shoulders over the years. May the soft soil of Fortaleza, where he now rests, lay gently on him, and may heaven be his bed".


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