Fr. Con Cronin CC – 40 Years in Priestly Ministry
Writes John Twomey
A Charismatic And Genial Pastor For All His People, Forty Years In Priestly Ministry.
There are many milestones in any life and a fortieth anniversary is truly a significant one.
Very Rev. Fr. Con Cronin CC in the Lower Harbour Parishes of Passage West and Monkstown reached this plateau recently having served in Nigeria and Ireland. Congratulations and Best Wishes are appropriate for this charismatic and genial pastor.
A true son of West Cork, Fr. Con was born in the townland of Kealkill where he received his National School education. He answered his call to the Priesthood in his late twenties.
Visiting Missionary Priests home on holidays had an influence on his choice of vocation and a personal ambition to do something big and useful and perhaps make life better for others drove him on. In another way he had no doubt that God had prompted him too. He saw his entry into the Kiltegan Fathers Missions as the way to do this. With some life and experience behind him he entered the seminary and pursued his studies which took him to Scotland, Wicklow and Cork. In those days, the Missionary Order had a house on The Rochestown Road in Cork which is now The Rochestown Park Hotel. Many of the students based there would attend UCC to obtain various degrees in philosophy and education. They would cycle to and from the University each day. Seminary life in those days was not always easy as students were cut off from the real world. In the early days an extension of the secondary school discipline prevailed. Training in leadership and communication skills were never great and really at the end of the day it was very much down to each individual’s personal experience in comprehending language, intercultural living and being respectful of the traditions and religious practices of other people. In 1979, the year Pope John Paul came to Ireland, Fr. Con received the Sacrament of Holy Orders and became a Priest destined to work in Africa.
Far, Far Away
From the hilly fields and meadows of Kealkill to Nigeria, a huge country with over 90 million people and 360,000 sq miles in size came Fr. Con. With its capital city Lagos situated on the southern shores on the Gulf of Guinea it projected northwards into the very heart of the great African continent, Fr. Con was assigned to a Mission Station in the vast expanses of the Northern Territory. This was a ‘game changer’ a new world, a new culture, and a new people. The Kealkill man was ready for the new and exhausting challenge and would go on to spend the next twenty-five years of his life with his new and beloved people.
Nigeria was a country then where 48% of the population were Muslims and 36% were Christian. Most of the priests were white people and when Fr. Con bade goodbye after twenty-five years most of the Priests were native Nigerians. Fr, Con found that intercultural living was a great teacher of life. It teaches people to become good listeners and to always remember that one is a guest in a foreign country. He learned much about hospitality, welcome, generosity and openness from these people. Of course poor people are the happiest – smiles everywhere. They taught their guests to be respectful, courteous and always polite. As he departed he saw a new African led Church developing which expressed and reflected their tradition and culture, a Church that speaks to their African souls and hearts. The Church is the People of God and it belongs to the people,
To Pastures Green
On his return to Ireland he spent eight years promoting the Missions and its work throughout the world. In 2012 he was seconded to the Dioceses of Cork and Ross and became Curate of the Harbour Parishes of Passage West and Monkstown joining Parish Priest Very Rev. Fr, Sean O’Sullivan. A new phase in his priestly career commenced. He was now officiating for the first time in Irish Parish life having accumulated all his experience in the distant mission fields of northern Nigeria. But Fr. Con brought with him all his experiences and gifts already alluded to in this article and his new flock were to be enriched and renewed with his presence. We had a Priest for the people reminding them that they were the real Church going forward into the future. His message and methodology struck a receptive cord with his flock and he quickly became one of our own. Having integrated and settled with his Parishioners this affable clergyman has become both a hidden and foremost pillar and stratum in the Harbour district.
Interaction and engagement with people is so vital today in a world driven by speed, ever changing technology and methodology. The young, the old the lonely the sick and countless others need that paternal listening ear and healing doctrine which the erudite Fr. Con possesses aplenty. He is a good man to be around and available.
A natural extrovert he can tell it as it should be, never fears truth and reality and can lead his captive and attentive audience from the debts of mediocrity to a fresh and practical vision of life, He won’t be riding into the sunset for a long time yet as each telling day, week and year needs a good Priest doing a good job.
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