Warm tributes have been pouring in for the much-loved priest who was killed in a bus tragedy in Cork’s lower harbour.
Fr Con Cronin, 72, the curate of Passage West, has been described as a priest for all, a larger-than-life character who was a treasured member of the community he served and loved.
He died yesterday after being struck by a bus which went out of control on Monkstown’s Strand Road after the bus driver, Mark Wills, 51, from Ballincollig, suffered a suspected fatal heart attack.
Fr Cronin had been crossing the road with sacristan and parish secretary Cathy Concannon just moments after the pair had enjoyed lunch together in the nearby Bosun pub.
In a moving tribute this morning, the parish priest of Cork’s harbour parishes, Fr Sean O’Sullivan, said he woke today with one of Fr Con's favourite sayings echoing in his mind.
“Gratitude, Con often said, is the memory of the heart,” Fr Sean said.
“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.
“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.
“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. 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.”
Chair of the parish assembly, Eamonn Downey, described Fr Con as a “fabulous rogue”.
“He was a huge man physically with a huge heart,” he said.
“He also had huge cornerstones to his faith. He never failed to turn and point at the crucifix, to say hello to the Virgin Mary, and he always asked us to pray for prisoners, because he said they needed forgiveness too.”
He said Fr Con found it difficult to cope with the Covid-19 restrictions but got through it thanks to his wonderful neighbours in Passage West and to the men who drove him around from church to church, Brian Higgins and Daithi Kelly.
And he paid tribute to Fr Con’s ability to include people, especially those who may not have been regular Mass goers, during ceremonies such as confirmations, communions or christenings.
“He involved everyone and he always took care of those people who may have been unsure of their role," Mr Downey said.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, said Fr Con had a welcome for every person, and treated everyone with the same respect and dignity.
“He has left an indelible mark through a lifetime of service,” he said.
“My own family will always be deeply appreciative of the support Fr Con provided to us when we suffered the sudden loss of our beloved Seán a number of years ago.
“I know that Fr Con was there for so many more families in their time of need.
“The outpouring of grief in the hours since his death is a reflection of the esteem in which the people of Passage West, Monkstown, Shanbally and Ringaskiddy hold him. He will be sorely missed.”
Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said Fr Cronin wasn’t just liked - he was loved.
“It’s priests like Fr Con that people respect. People like him are a credit to the church,” he said.
Fr O'Sullivan said the churches in the parish will remain open later than usual over the coming days to allow people time to visit and to pray and he asked people to also remember Mr Wills and his family over the coming days.
Fr Cronin’s funeral will take place in accordance with Covid-19 restrictions and in the meantime, people have been encouraged to leave a message of sympathy or to share a memory on the condolences page on RIP.ie.
A post mortem is expected to take place today on the bodies of the two men.