Bishop Clune fondly remembered

  • September 13, 2007
{mosimage}Retired Toronto Auxiliary Bishop Robert Clune, who died Sept. 6, shared the joys of his journey of faith with all he met, a nearly packed St. Michael’s Cathedral was told at his funeral Mass the following week.
“Bishop Clune depended on these grace-filled moments (found in the sacraments, prayer and the Word of God) to sustain his own journey,” said Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau during the homily at the Sept. 12 funeral.

“And he was ever eager to share them with all he met along the way.”

Bishop Clune, who was 86, died in Toronto. Archbishop Thomas Collins presided at the funeral, with the help of more than a dozen bishops and a couple of hundred priests. Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic also attended.

Collins led the way in eulogizing Bishop Clune by expressing his personal sorrow and sympathy on behalf of the Catholic community.

“We are saddened today by the news of the passing of Bishop Clune,” he said in a press release. “We give thanks for his faithful years of service and commitment to the church and the greater community. To his family, friends and colleagues, we offer our sincere condolences and heartfelt prayers,” the archbishop wrote in a Sept. 7 statement.

Bishop Pearse Lacey, also retired auxiliary bishop emeritus of Toronto, spent most of his time in the priesthood with Bishop Clune and formed a close bond. Both men were ordained bishops on the same day, June 21, 1979. They worked and lived together at St. Michael’s Cathedral for many years, a situation that cemented a friendship that had already started before their promotion with the church.

Although the loss of his long time friend left Lacey feeling empty inside, he was, however, full of praise for Bishop Clune.

“I have lost a good friend and (we have all lost) an outstanding priest, a man of strong principles,” Lacey said.

Bishop Clune was born in Toronto on Sept. 18, 1920, to William and Agnes Clune. He was one of seven brothers and is survived by John Clune.

{sidebar id=1}He was ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1945, at St. Michael’s Cathedral. In 1948 he received his doctorate of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He was the founding pastor of St. Wilfrid’s parish, vice-chancellor for temporal affairs and spiritual director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He also served on the Toronto Regional Marriage Tribunal and was a chaplain to the Canadian Army Reserve.

From 1971 to 1979 he was president of the Catholic Church Extension Society of Canada (now Catholic Missions In Canada). On his ordination as auxiliary bishop of Toronto he was given responsibility for the Northeast and Northern Regions of the archdiocese. From 1979 to 1992 he served as vicar for permanent deacons and vicar for religious.

Bishop Clune was deeply committed to Catholic education and served as honorary chairman of the Durham Region Roman Catholic School Board and honorary trustee of the York Region Roman Catholic School Board. He also served as chaplain to the Simcoe County Catholic School Board before retiring in 1997.

“He had a great zeal for the church and he was deeply spiritual. He also had a very keen interest in young people’s education (often) with courage to walk where angels did not dare tread,” said Lacey, adding, “I was privy to his commitment to the Lord.”

Another person who was close to Bishop Clune is Fr. Brian Clough, pastor of St. Anselm’s parish in Toronto. Clough said every era has its style of ministry and Bishop Clune was a wonderful example of somebody who got out there and met people and did his best for people and got involved in any number of things at the diocesan level to try and help people.

“He always kept his hand in, if you will. He spent a number of years living at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, if I’m not mistaken, and helped out there, as well. And certainly he helped at the Cathedral whenever he could, whenever he wasn’t away,” said Clough.

Bishop Clune was also part of a close trio that included long-time Register columnist Fr. Tom Raby of Kingston archdiocese and Fr. Norb Gignac, who died a week earlier.

Both Lacey and Clough agreed that their late friend actively worked to help people in their faith and never hesitated when he was called on to speak and help people.
“Bob worked as hard as he could,” said Clough, who said he admired the late bishop’s ability to travel long distances around Ontario and Canada to do his work.

In fact, Lacey revealed that despite Bishop Clune’s outward zeal to travel long distances to serve, the man actually did not really like travelling, especially on small planes. So, in a typical case of a friend in need being a friend indeed, Bishop Clune would always call on his good pal to join him on his trips and thus he felt comforted.

It was on these trips that, according to Lacey, his late friend would display his “great sense of humour.”

(Madawo is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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