25 October 2018

Columban Fr Gerard Dunn RIP

Fr Gerard Dunn
15 December 1937 - 24 September 2018

With the passing of Fr Gerard (Gerry) Dunn on 24 September 2018 the Region of Britain of the Columbans lost one of its most memorable characters.

Father Gerry was born on 15 December 1937 to a well-known Catholic family in Glasgow which had a mineral water business. He very much remained a Glaswegian at heart and in later years delighted in showing his fellow Columbans around his native city.

St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow [Wikipedia]

After his early education, Father Gerry followed his father into the medical profession.

Having qualified and practiced as a doctor in Glasgow for a relatively short time, he decided to embark on a different kind of healing ministry – as a Columban missionary priest.

He went to St Columban's, Dalgan Park, County Meath, Ireland, in 1962 and was ordained on 21 December 1967.  Because of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Britain that year, ordinations did not take place in Dalgan Park, which has a farm attached to it, because of strict Irish quarantine laws. So Father Gerry became the first and only Columban to be ordained on Scottish soil.

After ordination Father Gerry was assigned to Korea.

Within a few years he returned home in poor health and spent the remainder of his Columban life and ministry in Scotland, having ministered for a short time in a parish in Birmingham, England.

Legion of Mary altar [Wikipedia]

He engaged in mission awareness ministry, but gradually focused more and more on other ministries, such as promoting the Legion of Mary, leading pilgrimages to various shrines, and ministering to the small Chinese Catholic community in Glasgow. He learned enough Chinese to be able to celebrate Mass in that language.

St Patrick's Purgatory, Lough Derg, Ireland [Wikipedia]
Lough Derg is one of the places where Father Gerry regularly led pilgrimages from Glasgow.

When the Columban house in Glasgow closed in 2005 Father Gerry along with Fr Declan McNaughton, moved into the presbytery of St Gregory Barbarigo parish in Glasgow as the base for their continuing ministries.

The priests and people of the parish were very welcoming and supportive. Among the many ways Father Gerry endeared himself to the people in the parish was his preparation and distribution of large quantities of nutritious soup.

Father Gerry will be remembered as a lively conversationalist, witty storyteller and entertaining singer. He will also be remembered for his fearless promotion of the teaching of the Church as he understood it. Conversations with him tended to be blend of serious discussion on some controversial issue and frequent amusing anecdotes.

Father Gerry was a wounded healer who courageously coped with poor health for many years in a spirit of great faith.

In 2013 he retired to Nazareth House in Glasgow which is where he died. A large congregation attended his Funeral Mass in the Nursing Home Chapel on 28 September 2018.

Father Gerry’s nephew, Fr Stephen Dunn, was the principal concelebrant and was joined by more than twenty priests, including five Columbans. In his homily, Fr Dan Horgan, on behalf of the Columbans, thanked the Dunn family and others for the great care Father Gerry received and also spoke of his unique gifts and admirable faith.

Father Gerry was buried with his parents in St Peter's Cemetery, also known as Dalbeth Cemetery, Glasgow.

May he rest in peace.

Dalbeth Cemetery [Source]

A Personal Note

Father Gerry joined the Columbans a year after me but joined our class for theology in 1964. I lived with him for five months in Glasgow in 2002 while on a two-year assignment in Britain. I found to be true what the late Columban Fr Con Campion once said to me - he had lived with Father Gerry for some years in our Glasgow house - that there wasn't a kinder Columban. Before and after his funeral Mass I was chatting with persons who had known him and they all mentioned the great influence he had on their lives.

He had a great sense of humour and there was no one better to tell jokes about 'thrifty' Scotsmen. He was also a good singer. He had a number of songs in his repertoire but his favourite was A Scottish Soldier, written in 1960 by the late Andy Stewart who sings it here.

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country (Luke 1:39).

May our Blessed Mother, whom Father Gerry loved so dearly all his life, lead him to the hills of home.

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