Fr Christopher Crowley, O.Carm. (1942–2019)

Homily delivered at the Funeral Mass in Whitefriar Street Church on Saturday, June 29, 2019, by B. Murphy, O.Carm.

I first met Fr Christopher when I was a first year student in Gort Muire. A number of us were sent in here to Whitefriar Street to help with the November Dead List. Christopher had just been ordained a priest in July of that year. His job that day was to assign us our task.
Christopher was the first priest I had met with the real spirit of the Second Vatican Council. He was alive with freshness in the Church. A spirit of openness and care for people. Bringing life to those he encountered, especially to the poor and neglected in the manner of St Thérèse of Lisieux. The value of our life does not depend on the place we occupy. It depends on the way we occupy that place.
He had a gentle nature which was on fire with the dignity of the person. He really understood the importance of giving another their dignity no matter what their status in life. He always had time for others – and he was generous with his time – a person of great compassion. He was involved in the lives of people.
As I look down the church here at Whitefriar Street, I see a couple of things that Chris brought to life. One of his great loves was the Penny Dinners, which was always part of Whitefriar Street, but Chris gave it new life: he brought it out of Whitefriar Street and onto the streets of Dublin. His selfless work of collecting money for this cause brought it to the wider attention of the people of Dublin, caring for their own with generosity.
The next thing that catches my attention is the Shrine of Our Lady of Dublin. On the wall there is a plaque from the Dublin City Council dated 1979 and dedicated to Our Lady of Dublin. Chris, it seems, had the whole city and its people re-dedicated to Our Lady of Dublin. Not a bad achievement for a Kerryman, or should I say a cute Kerryman, with a great devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Dublin City Council would gather here annually on September 8 for Mass to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Dublin.
Recently I came across an article on the Sanctification of Priests – yesterday was the day it was celebrated. Priesthood is a sacred ministry that brings God to humankind and humankind to God – this is a priest’s essential ministry. For Chris, both were part of each other: Chris brought God to others and found God in others. Through his life and ministry as a priest, Chris developed a heart which was marked by pastoral charity. He had an enduring, gentle quality of grace – of loving service in the pastoral care of others, as a Carmelite and priest.
Chris held many offices in the Carmelite family including Bursar, Prior and Provincial. He was Provincial from 1982 to1988, and held this office with great care, concern and compassion for his Carmelite brothers, with both generosity and life. When asked by his sister how was he feeling towards the end of his term as Provincial, Chris answered, “I enjoyed the privilege, now I’m happy to move on. Morale is high and fraternity is fantastic”. A lovely legacy to leave us with.
Chris’s last few years at Gort Muire were marred with illness. He had a heavy cross to carry, but he did so with the same dignity, courage and care for others as he had always done.
Today Christopher is back here in Whitefriar Street, where he lived and shared his priestly and Carmelite life. His oneness with Christ Jesus, whose life and suffering he shared. May he now be at one with the Father who is Loving, the Son who is Caring, and the Holy Spirit who is Guiding, and whose gifts and graces Chris carried in his life.
Chris, May Our Lady of Mount Carmel enfold you in her mantle. Your life of prayer, community and service were a sign to the world that God lives. May you now stand gently in his presence.