THE late Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Joseph Cassidy’s mastery of words ensured he touched the lives of thousands during his ministry in the dioceses of Clonfert and Tuam. At his funeral service, attended by up to 1000 people last weekend, his successor, Archbishop Michael Neary said he would be remembered by different people for different things.
“However, he will be remembered by everyone who has heard him speak as one of the outstanding preachers of our time. In his homilies he made contact with real life which is there in our streets, our hospital beds, in broken homes and breaking hearts where love and hate, war and peace, grace and despair intermingle.”
The funeral service of the retired archbishop, which was held in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Tuam on Saturday last, was attended by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, and the aides de camp of both Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins. Mr Kenny had attended his removal on Friday evening. Along with the chief celebrant, Dr Neary, eight bishops and 70 priests concelebrated the Mass for the native of Charlestown.
Speaking about his unique ability to bring words to life – both as a teacher in Garbally College and as a priest – Archbishop Neary spoke of his unique power of imagination.
“Few preachers speak with quite the power of imagination that was his. He brought to his preaching the precision of a careful scholar and gave life to these dry bones with all the narrative skills of a novelist and the powerful imagery of a poet. In him we found a rare combination of warmth, insight and vitality,” he said.
Dr Cassidy (79) died at his home in Ballinasloe on Thursday last after a period of illness. He served in the Diocese of Clonfert for 28 years and was ordained a bishop there in 1982, before his appointment as Archbishop of Tuam in 1987.
He was buried in the grounds of Moore Church near Ballinasloe, where he had served as parish priest, after his retirement as archbishop of Tuam, from 1995 until 2009.
He is survived by his sisters Concie, Angela, Mary, Bernadette, Patricia and Imelda, by his extended family and a wide circle of friends.
Mayor of Castlebar, Cllr Brendan Henaghan paid tribute to Dr Cassidy, who taught him when he was a boarding student in Garbally College in Ballinasloe in the late seventies.
“He commanded great respect and he was indeed a great orator. You would look forward to Mass if he was saying it because you would know a good entertaining sermon would be given by him. He would make God and real life central to all his homilies.
“The Mayo lads or the ‘Mayos” as he’d call us would always have a special word from him as he was from Charlestown himself. He was a brilliant English teacher and had a hands on involvement in the school plays at the time. I remember we were disappointed when he left to become Bishop of Clonfert as we knew the school would be a lesser place without him. I remember him with fondness as a kind, humble but great human being.”
Expressing his deepest sympathy to the late archbishop’s family, his former pupil, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore observed that he ‘was also a friend whom I will greatly miss’.
“He was a man of compassion, learning and culture. He made an enormous contribution to the Church and to the wider community. He enriched the lives of all those with whom he came into contact,” Eamon Gilmore said.
Galway TD, Éamon Ó Cuív said: “He was a man of great compassion, who had a wonderful rapport with the people of his diocese. He was well known throughout the diocese for his knowledge and his humanity.”
Speaking also after his death, Archbishop Seán Brady expressed his sadness at his passing noting that for over a half-century he had ‘served the people of God with dedication and distinction in the dioceses of Achonry, Clonfert and Tuam’.
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