Most Reverend Diarmuid Martin
Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Dublin
Church of Saint Columbanus and Saint Gall, Milltown, 30 December 2020
Sadly only very few mourners can join us here this evening in this Parish Church of Milltown for the reception of the mortal remains of our friend and priest Monsignor Tom Stack.
I think we can say that this evening, Tom’s remains come back not just to a Church building, but indeed that they come back home. This Church was home to Tom and his ministry at every moment since he came here in 1995, almost 27 years ago. He cared for this Church, he enhanced its style and he enriched the quality of its worship. He accompanied the Church building with a parish centre and a residence for the Parish Priest, all with great taste and practicality. Anything Tom put his hand to was done well.
Tom led a vibrant parish community and he belonged to a vibrant parish community. He was much loved and I thank the parish community for the care they showed for him especially in his latter days. Tom served this parish family well and as his health deteriorated, the parish community looked after him almost like a family member. I thank you once again.
This Church was very much home for Tom but his ministry reached way beyond any parish boundary. Tom was an exceptional priest, indeed I would dare say a legend over all the years and in all the parishes where he ministered since he was ordained priest in 1958, over 62 years ago.
Looking at his curriculum vitae, alongside the names of parishes where he ministered the term “communications” dominates. His bonds with the Communications Institute appear way back in 1972 and his role as diocesan communications officer appears repeatedly until just before his appointment here in Milltown in 1995.
Tom was a great communicator and he was a priest who felt at home in the world of communications and was welcomed among communicators as a priest. He was ahead of his time not just in his activities but in his understanding of how vital communication was and is within the Church and in society.
His preaching reached out way beyond the four walls of a Church building into the real world where people seek and doubt, understand and try to discern how faith in Jesus Christ can bring a new dimension into their lives. None of us know how many lives he enriched with his ability to communicate what is central to faith in Jesus Christ.
A word that does not figure in a simple CV but was central in his life was “Vatican Council”. He belonged to a generation of priests who were enthused and inspired by the ideas of the Council. If anything he anticipated the ideas of the Council before the Council had even begun. The names of the great Council theologians were like a litany in his thought and conversation. His knowledge of the ideas of the Council was encyclopaedic and his passion for them was a driving force in his ministry.
For him the words of our first reading were not just of personal interest. They were a programme of what the Church should reflect and mirror in our world: “everything that is noble, that is good and pure, things that we love and honour, virtuous and worthy of praise”. Tom yearned for a renewed Church, not just in outward structures but in the message that the Church is called to incarnate. Like all reformers he was critical. He was critical of things within the Church but his criticism was always couched in a languages of real love of the Church. He was never just cynical or negative.
He was fascinated by the person of Pope John XXIII and the ideas Pope John opened out. Like Pope John Tom wanted a Church were windows were open and the life giving Spirit of the Lord would enter and revitalise each new generation. It is no coincidence that John XXIII looks down on Tom and all of us here in this Church this evening.
Tom had many, many friends. He accompanied many of them who died before him on their last journey. Many wanted him to officiate at their funeral Mass. Why? He was able to identify in each person that mixture of gifts and talents, fragility and failure, love and faithfulness that opened for them the horizon of eternal life. He was never judgemental.
In prayer and in sympathy with those who mourn him today we accompany Tom, that extraordinary priest, to his eternal reward with the Lord in whom he firmly believed and served.-