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Joseph Cummins – Gifted and Transformed

In what is admittedly perhaps the most difficult homily any priest has to give, the homily at the death of a close relative, Fr. Mike Cummins, Fr. Joe Cummins’ brother, spoke of how over the years so many people described him as a gift that transformed them. The truth of the observation was clear at his funeral.

Over fifty Vincentians and diocesan priests, among them, one Bishop, two former Superiors General, three Provincials and more than 200 other people who took time off from work. celebrated his impact on their lives. Such was the Eucharist of the Resurrection for Joseph Cummins.

I only came to know him better in the last 5 years. I know that I only knew a slice of his life.

Especially in the last three years of his struggle with cancer, I came to know a generous and committed Vincentian who downplayed any discussion of his suffering. The sufferings were very real. Yet, he retained his ready smile and rarely spoke of them. His struggle never stopped him from his desire to continue to serve. A gifted translator, he continued to ask for work right up to the last week when his energy and determination completely failed him.

As often happens at our community wakes we learn so much as people share how their lives were touched. In his case, there were some recurring themes. Person after person spoke of what a gift he had been in their lives… and how he helped them transform their lives. Yet he would point out in his own way how other others had been a gift to him that transformed his life. The circle was complete.

But now I am learning some of the details of his life that I, and others, may not have known.

Few of us thought of him as a “founder”. He never spoke much of his retreat work with members of the Spanish-speaking community. It is now coming to light that he was in effect the founder of a community of over 1,000 people. Ther were transformed by the retreat movement that flourished with his guidance. Over the years these people have kept in regular contact with each other and grew together in their faith. They are formally known under the title of the Servants of Christ. The Vincentian Family Office is exploring the possibility that this group might meet the criteria for being officially recognized as one of the newest branches of the Vincentian Family – the Servants of Christ.

Between what we know and are now learning, no wonder there was such a turnout. No wonder that at the conclusion of the Mass of the Resurrection there were few dry eyes in Our Lady’s Shrine when his Vincentian brothers broke out into singing Salve Regina as is our custom.

May our lives not only treasure his resurrection and final transformation but resurrect his gift and transformation in our lives and those we touch. That, I am sure, he would delight in.

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