Coventry: funeral of Mgr Tom Gavin

 Procession to  grave by the Shrine of Our Lady of Cotton.  Picture: Peter Jennings

Procession to grave by the Shrine of Our Lady of Cotton. Picture: Peter Jennings

The Funeral Mass for Mgr Tom Gavin was held on Tuesday, 12 January, at St Thomas More Church, in Coventry, where he was parish priest from 1978-2004.

The principal celebrant and preacher was the Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, together with Bishop Philip Pargeter and Bishop David McGough and more than 60 priests, all wearing purple vestments.

Bishop Pargeter, retired Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, taught on the staff at Cotton College, situated in North Staffordshire, when Mgr Tom Gavin was headmaster. Bishop McGough, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, was a former pupil at the College, which closed in 1987.

The other concelebrants on the sanctuary were: Mgr John Moran, the Vicar General; Canon Garry Byrne, Catholic Dean of Coventry; Fr Timothy Menezes, who succeeded Mgr Tom as Parish Priest of St Thomas More in 2004; and Fr Jonathan Veasey, former assistant priest at St Thomas More, 1995-2004.

Mgr Gavin, one of the longest serving priests in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, died in Coventry's University Hospital, during the early hours of Christmas Day 2009, after a short illness, aged 87.

At the start of Mass Archbishop Longley welcomed relatives, friends, and associates of Mgr Tom Gavin. He had a special word of thanks for those who had cared for Mgr Tom.

Born in Coventry, Mgr Tom will be remembered with great affection by parishioners of St Thomas More and the wider community.

Canon Byrne, the Catholic Dean, read a tribute received from the Lord Mayor of Coventry, Councillor Jack Harrison, who was among the civic leaders present in the packed parish church.

Mgr Tom was the organiser of the Pastoral Visit of Pope John Paul II to Baginton airfield Coventry, on Pentecost Sunday, 30 May 1982.

During his sermon Archbishop Bernard Longley said: "The priests of the diocese have been entrusted by our Lord with the care and guidance of his people.

"We can see it as providential that Mgr Tom was called by the Lord to his eternal reward during this Year for Priests.  In the manner and the moment of his departing we are given an opportunity to reflect on the great gift of the priesthood through its concrete expression in the life of Mgr Tom Gavin.

"He received a share in the Priesthood of Christ which would forever change the course and the outcomes of his life.  I have been told by those who knew him at Cotton College that his priestly life was characterised by loyalty, faithfulness and a total commitment to whatever he was called to do.

"For every priest it is that closeness to Christ that gives us confidence to serve his holy people day by day - such a closeness in prayer and study, and as we recognise his presence in the lives of those around us, that we do not lose sight of him. If our eyes are fixed on him then we cannot head off in the wrong direction or lead others astray."

Archbishop Bernard concluded: "At the end of this Mass Mgr Tom's earthly remains will be laid to rest near to this church.  His grave is beside the relocated Shrine of Our Lady of Cotton, which is itself a beautiful reminder of his and our devotion to Mary the Mother of the Church."

After Holy Communion Mgr Tom Gavin's chalice, paten, white stole, and Bible open at the Gospel of St John, were removed from the top of his coffin. The white pall was taken away before Bishop Philip Pargeter stood in front of the light English oak coffin with its silver crucifix and said the prayers of commendation.

The coffin was carried out, through the main door of the church and the short distance to the Shrine of Our Lady of Cotton.

It was here, on a bitterly cold, early January afternoon, with snow covering the grass, that Mgr Thomas Joseph Gavin, was buried directly in front of the shrine of Our Lady from Cotton College where he had been a pupil, member of staff and headmaster.

The Salve Regina was sung at the graveside at the end of a deeply moving two-hour Funeral Mass that will long be remembered in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.


Share this story