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Remembering... Fr John Malachy Clune, O.P.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

By Br Albert Elias Roberston, O.P.Br Albert remembers Fr John Malachy Clune, O.P., a friar he cared for as a novice and who died shortly after Br Albert’s profession.

Being young in the Order, I’ve never been in a priory when someone has died, and so I don’t have the same reaction as some of the brothers do when names are read out from the necrology before our evening meal. Some of them I know by reputation, by stories told by the brothers, or by their work, Herbert McCable, Giles Hibbert, Vincent McNabb, Gerald Vann, and the like. Some of the older ones I know from visits to the archive, either from seeing their archive box on the shelf, or by reading more and more about the history of our province, and so I sometimes issue a slight eyebrow raise of recognition at names like Joseph Edwards, alias Tylecote.

The only brother I have ever really known personally and who has died since my being in the Order is Fr John Malachy Clune who died on 17 October 2016, just after I’d made my Simple Profession. Fr John was in the priory in Cambridge for almost all of my noviciate, leaving just before my Simple Profession to go to residential care.

Fr John was a man of mystery. There are always stories told about the older brethren, but those connected with Fr John always seemed slightly more enigmatic: meetings with the provincial arranged, but never actually taking place; letters sent, but no reply received. But we did know some things for sure: we knew that he had spent a long time working for the Apostleship of the Sea in the Caribbean and around Latin America, and we knew that he had worked to build cultural centres, schools, and even a hospital through extensive fundraising campaigns, but other than this we didn’t know very much else. Part of this was because of his dementia, with his memory gradually deteriorating over the course of the year, it became almost impossible to ask him anything about his past. One thing stood out; the picture of him meeting St John Paul II which stood proudly in the middle of his mantlepiece, the sign of a long, active, and fruitful priestly ministry.

Why did I want to write about him, rather than others? After all, I don’t have much to tell you about him, because we don’t know all that much about him. Part of it I suppose is about the personal connection: he is the first brother who I have cared for in the Order who has died. I cooked the lunch for the party we had for his sixtieth anniversary of vows, I brought him his lunch when he could no longer get to the refectory, I took him tea and sat with him in his room, and I washed his clothes. I pray for him every day, because it’s very difficult to do these things for someone and then forget them. So I suppose in some ways, that’s the real reason I chose to write about him: I still remember him and pray for him because the Order brought us together. No matter how curiously one lives the life of a Dominican friar, no matter how mysterious or enigmatic a friar is, in the end we are brothers and we care for each other to the end. I pray that at the last, when I see him again, I might finally get the full story of his life.

The homily Fr Bob Eccles preached at Fr John's funeral is available here.

Br Albert Elias Robertson O.P.

Br Albert Elias was born in Surrey and went to university at the London School of Economics, where he read Social Anthropology before going to Oxford, where he read for an MPhil in Material Anthropology. After studies, he had a propaedeutic year in three Anglican parishes in north London. He became a Catholic in 2013 and worked for a short time in London living at St Patrick’s Soho before entering the noviciate in 2015. Br Albert helps to run the Thomistic Institute and so has an interest in promoting the theology of St Thomas as well as Patristics. In his spare time he likes to read novels [lots]. | albert.robertson@english.op.org

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Dan Buckelew commented on 05-Jun-2020 12:20 AM
Dear Brother Albert,

I am proud to list Father John as one of my most important friends. I think I may be able to fill in at least a few details for you. I can also forward copies of several of Father John's letters to me; in a few of these, he describes his Mission activities. I can correspond via email or via (hard copy) post, as you prefer.

Thanks for posting about Father John. I'm not sure, of course, but perhaps Father Eccles will remember me as the American who visited Blackfriars on or about February 8, 2016, to see Father John.


Dan Buckelew

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