Last night I went to the cathedral for the reception of the body of Bishop Kevin Dunn. I couldn`t make it to the funeral Mass today as we were interviewing for a new headteacher at our primary school. I must say that last night was the cathedral at its best. I was pleased to see unbleached candles used for the `big six` and for the candles round the coffin. The music was not of the type that has diminished my enthusiasm for attending cathedral Masses of late. (I went once to the chrism Mass in the 1990`s but found the music so inappropriate that I didn`t go again to the chrism Mass until bishop Kevin came. At least the improvising trombone was no longer in evidence as it was in the 90`s but the music was still largely of the `folk` variety. For an account of last year`s Mass click here.) It was a shame the statues were not covered for passiontide. We had the chant Introit for the Requiem Mass to start with, the Libera me from Faure`s Requiem at the offertory and the Agnus Dei from Mozart`s Coronation Mass. What with bits of Latin chant, incense and torchbearers for the eucharistic prayer it reminded me of St Mary`s Forest Hall on a Sunday morning!
I have been amazed by the whole thing. I was firstly amazed when I heard that Kevin Dunn was going to be our new bishop as I had known him during my two years at the English College in Rome when he was doing his doctorate in canon law and I was there for the licence. Having known him in that time I never felt constrained in talking to him and felt I could say what I felt in what has been a turbulent couple of years. I am also amazed that he is no longer with us. The last thing I expected was that he might die after only three and a half years as bishop. He always looked so well and full of life. He also packed quite a lot into his time here. I was very glad that he saw upgrading the very inadequate Catholic church on Holy Island to make it a place worthy of its heritage as one of his first priorities. The makeover is a vast improvement. Maybe one day we`ll get Duncan Stroik over to build a basilica but in the meantime things have improved. I don`t think Bishop Kevin was that keen on the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite but he didn`t try to cancel any of the current Masses we have.
One of the good things about bishop Kevin was that he had worked as a parish priest. This is a rarer quality than might be expected among a number of people who are in charge of forming secular priests and leading them.
Extracts from last night`s Mass can be heard on the diocesan website.
May he rest in peace.