By: Mother M Xavier, OSB,
Reverend Patrick Cope, The Head Chaplain of all Her Majesty's Prison Chaplains in the UK. He also ministered as Chaplain to Tyburn Convent, London, from 9th February 2014 until Saturday, 21st October, 2017, the day of his Passover to eternal life, after suffering a severe illness. He breathed his last peacefully in his own bed in the Chaplain's flat at No. 9 Hyde Park Place, after having received the last Rites of Holy Mother Church. Several of our nuns were present, praying with him at his moving "homecoming".
REV. FATHER PATRICK COPE was a remarkable and unique Chaplain to the Community of Benedictine Nuns at Tyburn Convent for four and a half years.
Right from his first days in his flat, Fr Patrick simply, naturally, in a discreet brotherly way, inserted himself into the daily ebb and flow of the life of the community. This was without intruding in any way, nor being demanding. His priestly presence was always felt in a discreet and dependable manner. Both community and retreatants took him for granted, respectfully and with confidence, never hesitating to call on him for advice, personal or otherwise.
One of his outstanding traits was the even tenor of his exceptional self discipline.
In his daily routine which required constant and consistent self-giving and even Self-sacrifice in an heroic degree on account of his heavy responsibilities required by his prison work. This involved a very high standard of well organised and smoothly executed daily, weekly and monthly duties and responsibilities. We learnt many different aspects of his apostolic labours with the prison world of this country, above all his seemingly unquenchable priestly zeal and dedication to the people in prison- both male and female, young and old. This became very plain as the years passed. For example, he prayed a bidding prayer almost every day at Holy Mass, for some aspect of his prison apostolate, and frequently asked our community for prayers for these intentions.
He was a man of deep and vibrant faith on all levels of his priestly life. Above all in the last year or so his homilies at our daily Conventual Mass took on a markedly more profound and deeper Christological and Sacramental nature. At times during some of his inspiring Eucharistic homilies his entire person seemed to become transformed with strong religious ardour.
Another memorable aspect of his ministry as Chaplain to our community must be recorded here. A few years ago when one of our elderly nuns was dying in hospital, he visited her almost every day. This gave her very great spiritual and human comfort as she knew full well how extremely busy his daily schedule was. He was very self-effacing about this extra unasked priestly kindness to her.
HE was sacerdotal through and through in his relations with people of every class and condition. Yet he never lost his really great sense of humour no matter what the circumstances. It was a tremendous privilege for our community when he became our Chaplain. We are a community of different nationalities and races, therefore the English language can pose not a few problems both in word and in writing. Therefore Fr Patrick was like a gift from Heaven because of his impeccable diction and pronunciation as he celebrated Holy Mass in his effortlessly faultless and refined English diction, reading aloud the Mass Texts, proclaiming the Gospel and preaching remarkable, well thought out homilies daily.
He would never retire at night before reading and praying over the next day's Mass text and preparing his Homily based on the next day's Gospel reading. He did not need the help of a microphone to preach, His steady, clear and resonant voice was easily heard from every corner of the monastery Church. He always seemed quite unaware of this amazing God-given gift of such a perfect, unaffected public speaking voice.
We will miss greatly this aspect of his priestly ministry.
Now that God has called Fr Patrick to his eternal reward yet another spiritual quality must be mentioned, as this was actually an inherent and deeply attractive part of his unassuming personality. HE LOVED THE TYBURN MARTYRS INTIMATELY to such an extent that I am drawn to conclude this personal tribute to him by citing part of one of St Robert Southwell's poems - applying it to
Fr Patrick COPE himself:
" Gift better than Himself God doth not know,
Gift better than His God no man can see,
This gift doth here the giver given bestow,
Gift to this gift let each receiver be:
GOD is my gift, Himself He freely gave me,
GOD's gift am I, and none but GOD shall have me"
May God grant him eternal peace - in everlasting bliss!.
Mother M Xavier, OSB, Tyburn Convent, London. 2nd November 2017
PS Our Tyburn Convent Community has had the privilege of an all-night Prayer vigil for our dear departed Chaplain, in our Convent Chapel, With his mortal remains present in our Sanctuary for three days Prior to his Funeral Mass on Monday 3rd November, at St George's Cathedral Southwark, at 12.30pm.
WE ask your prayers for the eternal blessedness of his soul While expressing our gratitude to all for your comforting words of Condolence to his family, friends and to our community. May Fr Patrick rest in peace.