Dublin’s Catholic archbishop pays tribute to priest who ‘sacrificed himself to save his secretary’

Fr. Con Cronin Fr. Con Cronin | Courtesy of the Harbour Parishes of Passage West and Monkstown

The Catholic archbishop of Dublin paid tribute on Wednesday to an Irish priest who died after reportedly pushing his secretary out of the way of an oncoming bus.

Archbishop Dermot Farrell told RTÉ’s News at One on Aug. 4 that the death of Fr. Con Cronin marked a “very sad day.”

“Could I sympathize with Fr. Con Cronin and his family on the tragic death of Fr. Cronin and pay tribute to his bravery, where he sacrificed himself to save his secretary,” he said, noting that he was speaking on the Feast of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests.

Locals said that the 72-year-old priest pushed the woman to safety when a bus veered towards them in Monkstown, a village in County Cork, on Aug. 3.

The bus driver, Mark Wills, 52, also died. The Irish Times reported that he is believed to have lost control of the vehicle after suffering a medical trauma.

Gardaí (Irish police) in Togher, Cork, have issued an appeal for witnesses of the accident, which occurred on the Strand Road at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Bishop Fintan Gavin of Cork and Ross expressed his shock at the death of the priest who served in his diocese as a curate in the Harbour Parishes of Passage West and Monkstown.

“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to Fr. Con’s family, his wide circle of friends, parishioners, and his fellow priests in the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan, as well as the priests of the Diocese of Cork and Ross,” he said in an Aug. 3 statement posted on Facebook.

“This tragic accident also leaves another family mourning the loss of a loved one and I extend my prayerful support to his family also.”

“I pray for healing and peace for all who were injured and those who witnessed the accident. I wish to acknowledge the professionalism and kindness of the emergency services who attended the accident scene.”

Gavin continued: “Fr. Con has served in the Harbour Parishes since 2012, establishing a warm rapport both pastorally and personally with all to whom he ministered and all who had contact with him.”

“He will be remembered fondly for his unique sense of humor and his openness to all people. He died on the day when the Gospel reminds us what happened the day Jesus asked Peter to step out of the boat and come to him across the water. Jesus called out to him, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’”

The bishop recalled that the priest was ordained in 1979 and served with the Kiltegan Fathers -- also known as the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society -- in Africa for 25 years before returning to Ireland in 2004.

“His love for his native place and its people -- the Borlin Valley in Bantry Parish -- has never wavered,” Gavin said.

“All who know Fr. Con are grateful for having known him and our diocese is blessed that he ministered among us.”

“We commend both men to the Lord and pray God’s comfort and consolation for all those who are in mourning.”

The Rt. Rev. Paul Colton, the Church of Ireland (Anglican) bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, also expressed his sadness at the priest’s death.

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“I send my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Fr. Con Cronin, his parishioners, Bishop Fintan Gavin and the priests and people of the Diocese of Cork and Ross,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Parishioners held a vigil for the priest and Bus Éireann driver on Aug. 3.

Fr. Sean O’Sullivan, who served alongside Fr. Cronin in the Harbour Parishes, recalled that the priest had often said that gratitude is “the memory of the heart.”

“Despite our shock and our overwhelming sadness for Con, his family, his friends, his Kiltegan family, and our community where he was truly beloved, Con would want us to draw comfort from the wonderful memories we have shared and the joy, the blessings, the love and the comfort he has brought us these past nine years,” O’Sullivan wrote on the parish website.

“Not only did Con become part of our lives but he allowed us to be part of his, with no conditions, no judgments, no reservations. His heart was open to all as was the door to his house.”

“He allowed us to share fully in his life and what a ride it has been! For all you have given us, for all you have done for us, but most especially for being you, thank you, Con.”

​O’ Sullivan said that the priest’s funeral would take place in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions. Government regulations state that only 50 mourners are permitted at funeral services.

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​”Our churches will remain open later than usual over the coming days to allow people time to visit the church and to say a prayer for Con,” the priest said.

“Please also remember the driver of the bus, Mark Wills, who also died in the accident and pray that God will comfort his family and surround them with loving support in their devastating loss.”

“So often Con carried us through tragedy. He would want us to rally around and support one another now and to be there for one another.”

“Con, may you return home to God now from the dance of life. May your example of love continue to inspire us. May your unshakeable faith in the love of God strengthen us. Rest in peace, dear friend. Heaven just got a little brighter! We will miss you dearly for you were truly loved!”

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