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A Galway farewell

The Month’s Mind Mass for David Tuohy SJ took place in St Ignatius Church, Sea Road Galway (see photo) on Sunday 29 February 2020. David was a native of Galway who lectured for a time in Galway University, and a large crowd, including some of his fellow Jesuits from Dublin, came to mark his passing on Friday 31 January this year. After Mass, all were invited to the Jesuit  Community house for tea and sandwiches.

The celebrant and homilist was Martin Curry SJ, also from Galway and a life-long friend of David’s. He told the congregation that it was precisely in the neighbourhood in which they were gathered, right beside Coláiste Iognáid, that David realised he was called to be a Jesuit, and that he was ordained in that very church in June 1981.”Whatever thoughts David had when he joined about what he might do as a Jesuit,” said Fr Martin, “he certainly never imagined the fantastic achievements that he completed in his 53 years.”

Read the full homily below.

The Trumpet Shall Sound

It is very fitting that the Gospel today for Saturday of 1st week in Lent is the call of St Matthew by Jesus. Because it was in this neighbourhood of Coláiste Iognáid and Galway that David recognised his own call to become a Jesuit. He joined the novitiate in 1967, just after school. And he was in fact ordained in this Church by Bishop Eamonn Casey in June 1981.

Matthew was a tax collector for the Romans and as such was an enemy of the Jewish people of his time. David was an ordinary student at the Jes and took part in lots of activities in the school. He spent a lot of his life working in schools and became an expert in the management of schools and educational theory.

We remember his great work with very many groups in the country and in Africa, his time lecturing both in UCD and in NUIG, but perhaps one of his greatest achievements was the setting up of the Le Chéile Trust, where he brought together 11 congregations at first, later 14, and formed them into a legal trust to preserve their ethos and identity as the number of religious diminished to near zero.

The patience and expertise needed to bring all those groups together was enormous. Recently David was trying to set up a similar trust for the Jesuit schools in Ireland, but he was taken from us before that could be finished.

Whatever thoughts David had when he joined about what he might do as a Jesuit, he certainly never imagined the fantastic achievements that he completed in his 53 years. I won’t repeat his history – that was very adequately done by Fr. Coghlan at the funeral. I would like to remember the motivation underlying David’s work throughout his life.

He was really in touch with God, particularly through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. He didn’t talk about it too much, but hearing him expound on his ideas and reflecting on his more recent work with the Church of Ireland you could begin to see the lively faith-base from which he worked. God was with him, and while we sometimes didn’t recognise it, we knew that David’s thinking and energy was coming from a really deep source, which was God’s friendship and grace. This was very eloquently recognised by Archbishop Michael Jackson in his words at David’s funeral.

David’s incredible understanding of difficult concepts, whether in education, spirituality, legal issues, financial issues, or lots of other things, left most of his fellow Jesuits swimming in his wake. Sometimes he couldn’t understand why we were so slow, and it brought out a bit of his impatience, but that didn’t interfere with his friendship and his ability to continue to reach out.

He faced the prognosis of terminal cancer with great courage. They were words nobody wants to hear said to themselves by the consultant, but he didn’t avoid them. He looked the issues squarely in the face – although that was very very difficult – and he decided how to manage the time he had left. A few days before he died, I was with him and we talked about his funeral and the arrangements he wanted.

I was reminded of an incident that happened here in the Jesuit community about March 1975. It was Saturday afternoon, and there was nothing major happening, as we were both in our rooms next door to each other on the top floor of the house. I had found a trumpet in Fr. Sean Mallin’s room and I spent about an hour trying to get a sound out of it. Suddenly, I got a clear blast from it, and there was a huge crash from next door! My door flew open and an amazed David stood there, having just fallen out of bed, laughingly asking what the hell was going on. I reminded him of that just before he died, and we said that now another trumpet was blowing – calling him to the next life. He smiled even through the pain of it all, but he didn’t try to avoid what was going to happen.

It is a month now since his funeral, and the immediate sadness has diminished somewhat. David spent his life telling people about God and his goodness, and the promises he made to each of us – that we would reach eternal happiness with him when the time came. David’s time had come, and we now pray that the happiness promised him will be fulfilled.

We often hear people say that when they die, they hope that they leave the world a better place than it was when they came into it. We can certainly say that about David – we are all better for having known and having shared life with him. And so are thousands of other people as well.

We pray that his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed will rest in the peace and joy of Christ forever.

Martin Curry SJ

29 February 2020.