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Myles Rearden, class '57

1939 - 2009

Feb 25, 2009
Myles Rearden, class '57 -


As Myles and I had different schedules in our non-archival work we seldom were in the Archives on the same day, unless by prior arrangement. We used to leave memos on each other’s desk. On 11 January 2003 I left him a memo outlining a long-term schema for division of work. I began with the words “As you are ten years younger than I am we can act on the presumption that you will outlive me…” Præsumptio cedat veritati.

I first met Myles when I was given Fourth Year French in Castleknock in September 1954, and I had him again in Fifth and Sixth Years. While at day school in Cork he had been an enthusiastic Scout, and he continued his involvement during holidays from Castleknock. He asked me to give him a simple test in oral French, to earn him another badge on his uniform; at that time there was no oral French in the Leaving Certificate course. His request was a hint that he was not content to do just what was expected, but that he tended to push out the edges a bit. He kept up contact with his former Scoutmaster until the latter died at an advanced age. This man was a journalist and I first met him during my years in Cork, and on odd occasions after that till his death, but in a totally different context. A word he used about Myles as a Scout was “dedicated”; I think that can be applied to all matters to which Myles gave his attention.

During his time in Nigeria we exchanged the odd letter, mine usually in reply to some request from him. Later when he was in Tanzania and I was in Rome we were both members of the Phibsboro community, domui adscripti. That was when I really got to know him again. We communicated more frequently, and sent each other cards from varied places on our travels. I kept him supplied with paperbacks, mainly detective fiction; plenty of these were available in the Oxfam shop in Rome. In one batch I included a book by Freeman Wills Crofts. My father had introduced me to this author’s books when I was about fifteen. He was a Belfast man, and wrote during the 1920s and 1930. He did not write very many books, as he was a railway engineer by profession and writing was a sideline. Myles was very taken by him, and asked me to find more of his books. His detective always stressed the importance of trying to re-construct a precise timetable of the crime as a means towards solving it. I think that is what appealed to Myles’s mind, the meticulous attention to detail necessary for understanding a problem and only then dealing with it. I always liked his letters to newspapers. The last book by Crofts which I gave him was a tattered copy which I picked up somewhere quite recently and left on his desk. He removed it, so I presume he read it.

He found his time in Tanzania difficult. The religious community of Sisters with whom he worked were German, a language which he did not have. It was necessary to learn Swahili, and all his ministry had to be through that medium. It is no wonder that he sought relief in reading fiction. He wrote a 56-page life of St Vincent in that language, Matakatifu Vinsent Wa Paulo, and also some sort of a brief introduction to the spiritual life. He left a copy of each in the Archives. He told me once, with great glee, that during a holiday in Ireland, at the end of some coach journey, he was jostling for position to retrieve his bag from the luggage compartment when a big African man said to his girlfriend the Swahili equivalent of “That little so-and-so is not getting in front of me”. He was flabbergasted, and his girl even more so, when Myles retorted with the Swahili equivalent of “Get lost!” In July 1997 our paths crossed when both of us were at a meeting in Addis Ababa, he from Tanzania and I from the Curia. We took the opportunity to visit, and photograph, Denis Corkery’s grave. When leaving Tanzania he brought me back a beautiful 12” Christus figure, carved in some very dark native wood, for which I had a suitable cross made; it now hangs above my bed.

When I learnt that he was returning permanently from Tanzania I immediately head hunted him to be my “co-adjutor with the right of succession”. I was successful, and what an excellent choice it proved to be, though his handwriting is going to cause problems to future researchers.

I got the impression that he really relished being given this appointment, and he set about learning the trade immediately. He took a short course in archival management, and we decided that he would embark on what is known as “listing our holdings”. He worked out a cataloguing system and got to work with his computer. In 2005 archivists received a circular outlining the possibility of applying to The Heritage Council of Ireland for a financial grant. We decided that this was worth investigating, and he set about doing so. He made out a case and presented it. He made out such a good case that we received €5,000. This enabled us to employ a professional archivist for a number of weeks, which was of great assistance.

He was a great conversationalist. When we arranged a meeting in the Archives to work out some matter our professional discussion usually developed into more general affairs and time flew. He kept in contact with a few of his classmates from Castleknock, and they used to meet from time to time. One of them told me at his funeral that they had met only the previous week.

The last communication which I received from him was by post, on 20 February 2009. In his almost indecipherable calligraphy he wished me Happy Birthday for my 80th, and said he had celebrated Mass for me on the 18th. He enclosed a €50 Book Token. I will give the matter much thought before selecting a book to be a fitting memento of him. My visual memory of him will always be with his head crowned with his trademark knitted woollen skullcap.

He was a great friend, whom I miss.

Tom Davitt CM

Born: Passage East, Cork, 07 August 1939
Entered the CM: 7 September 1957
Vows: 8 September 1962
Ordained Priest: 3 April 1965 at Holy Cross College, Clonliffe by Dr John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin

1965 – ’66: St Joseph’s, Blackrock
1966 – ’71: All Hallows College
1971 – ’72: Oxford – studies
1972 – ’76: All Hallows College
1976 – ’89: Nigeria: St Vincent’s & Bl Ghebre Michael House, Ikot Ekpene
1989 – ’95: St Peter’s, Phibsborough (Spiritual Director, Maynooth)
1995 – ’00: Tanzania (Superior General’s Appointment)
2000 – ’09: St Vincent’s, Castleknock (Spiritual Director, Maynooth & Assistant Provincial Archivist)
Died: 25 February 2009
Buried: Castleknock College

Homily given by Msgr Hugh Connolly, President of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth at the Commemoration Mass for Mylesheld in the College Chapel on 27 February 2009

On behalf of the entire community of St Patrick’s College and indeed the broader campus community here in Maynooth, I would like to welcome you all here this afternoon especially Fr Myles’ brother, Ted, and his sister, Susie, and their families, Fr Brian Moore provincial of the Vincentian Congregation and other confreres from his religious family, as well as family, colleagues, friends of Myles, and the priests of the college and elsewhere and seminarians and students who have joined us for this celebration.

We have gathered here today to offer the Holy Eucharist, the center of our lives, and to include our beloved Father Myles in the gifts we bring to this altar. The man who gave us so much over his life time, we now return as a gift to the God who called him. Where his coffin lies today on the floor of this College Chapel evokes another occasion and another Chapel where he lay prostrate during his solemn profession and again later his ordination more than 4 decades ago. It was in these ceremonies that Father Myles confirmed his own baptism through solemn vows and embraced the message and the mission of Christ so that he and others might go forth and bear much fruit. Today that mission is achieved and we give thanks for the life and witness of Myles Rearden. In so doing we also remind ourselves of our own calling and mission and we take a moment now to call to mind our failure to live out that calling to the full.

In our first reading today the prophet Isaiah declares that God, the Lord of hosts, has in store for all people a feast, a rich and sumptuous feast, at which the veil that is cast over every nation shall be destroyed, death swallowed up forever, and tears wiped away from all faces.

As a priest, Fr Myles presided often at the Eucharistic celebration of this great and promised feast to come. At this very altar Myles on many occasions invited us to lift up our hearts in anticipation of that rich and wonderful feast that God holds in store for all his people. And from the offering of bread and wine placed upon this altar, Myles offered to us the body and blood of our Saviour who has prepared for us the great banquet where all our sorrow is turned to eternal joy.

Myles was someone who was unwavering in his conviction of that truth. He was as I said the other evening, a stalwart of faith, integrity, goodness, kindness an extraordinary example of priesthood today.

He was someone who understood service and what it means to truly serve God and to serve others.

During the seven decades of his life, Father Myles became both the seed that gave life and the good ground in which the Word of God grew: he preached the Word; he welcomed thousands of people with kindness; he listened compassionately for countless hours to the hopes and  dreams as well as the personal suffering of others, always offering a calm and faith-filled wisdom and of course a healthy dose of common sense. I dare say that most of us gathered here today could recount a litany of the stories we have about Myles from one time or another. And the truth is that because of his extraordinary involvement in priestly formation right throughout his ministry Myles had an enormous impact of the lives of thousands of priests and seminarians, and in virtue of this, no doubt upon the lives of tens of thousands of the people of God.

The picture given to us of our God in the gospel we have just heard is the picture reflected in the very life of Christ himself, for Jesus is the perfect image of the God who loves us with a love beyond all telling. In today’s excerpt, taken from chapter 12 of Saint John, we find those powerful words of Jesus telling his disciples that his Hour had come; that he was about to suffer, to die and then to rise again so that we all might be gathered up with him in glory. In the Gospel Jesus goes on to explain that he is the seed which must die in order to bear much fruit, the fruit of salvation and eternal life. At the same time he reveals that this must be our path as well. Out of love Jesus died for us and out of love he shows us the only way to the Father which is at least in some measure the way of the cross. Jesus was the archetypal suffering servant.

Historically, servants did their work for money or out of fear of punishment. But our servant-God serves out of love and compassion for those served so that they might truly know their worth, namely that they are – that we are – the very image of God and are thus valued so highly that we are invited into the banquet of love.

Jesus himself is revealed as the Servant of God and the one who through his service is raised up by God, victorious over sin and death. The servant follower of Jesus Christ in turn receives Christ as the model of servant hood. The true servant of the Lord is one chosen by God and with whom God is pleased.

When this kind servant sees people of good will he does not crush them in their weakness but, like Christ, gently draws them too into the justice love and mercy and joy of discipleship. The servant of God is seen by those who seek God as that one who teaches with the authority of God. The servant is effective because he knows that in truth it all comes from God. Myles Rearden was, as we all know, one such servant.

Myles Rearden was born in Cork in 1939 and grew up in a loving family. He entered religious life with the Congregation of the Mission in September 1957 and there he continued to build on the firm foundations of faith that he had already experienced in his own family home. He took final vows in 1962 and was ordained in 1965. His early years of ministry were spent on the formation team in All Hallows as well as in teaching philosophy. From 1976 until 1989 he continued this work in a very different setting in Nigeria. His years in Nigeria were very important to Myles and he spoke of them often and fondly. He then came here to St Patrick’s College Maynooth in ’89 on the first of two terms as spiritual director: the first for 6 years until ’95 and the second for 8 and a half years from 2000 until today. In the intervening 5 years he worked in Tanzania developing the mission of the Vincentian family.

And so throughout the seven decades of his life Myles assimilated what he received by example and spent his life attempting to become the icon of Christ the servant. Those were seven vibrant decades of extraordinary service and witness, decades no doubt rich in joyful, sorrowful glorious and indeed illuminating mysteries. But it was the service of others above all that typified his ministry, and it was for the sake of the mission and the Church that he accepted an office of service to others.

Father Myles set high standards for himself and for others. He could hold his own in discussions on most issues whether Church or secular. Politics, sport, the economy, philosophy and, of course, theology were also issues which he keenly and critically reviewed. He was, of course, widely published and was a gifted author, reviewer, commentator and translator. I believe he even has an article due for publication in next month’s edition of The Furrow. I suppose that must really set new standards of dedication to duty for our scholarly community. Myles had a keen intellect and a sharp wit. He spoke well and learnedly and was always very attentive to detail. Whenever he was sure of the position he took, which was almost always he would strongly defend it. Myles was also a very committed ecumenist and I know it pleased him greatly to have been able to host the Greehills Conference committee here last Monday.

The way Myles faced his illness and ultimately his death was clear testimony to his profound understanding and acceptance of the Paschal Mystery. As Jesus accepted the Father’s will, Myles accepted the Father’s will. No complaints no upset. When you asked about his health he tended to brush it aside. When you suggested it might be time to take things easier he informed you kindly but firmly the way that he had decided these things were going to be. He accepted illness, as he had accepted every other change in his life and ministry… with a sincerity and humility that was Myles. But he was not going to modify his life until he was ready to modify it.

The manner of his death was extraordinary; in the middle of spiritual direction on Ash Wednesday morning seated in his usual armchair he shuddered briefly leaned back and then fell asleep. He had his missal on his knee and his right hand holding open the pages of the Easter  Triduum. Already at the very beginning of Lent Myles had his mind firmly fixed on the outcome.

And this of course is the great truth that we all celebrate here today – the truth of the dying and rising of Christ to new life. Just as death could not keep our Lord shackled, and he burst through to new life – resurrected life – on Easter morning so too we believe in the power of Christ to raise Fr Myles to new life today. We pray that the Lord in his goodness will overlook any failings that were apart of his human condition, and welcome him into the kingdom prepared for him by the
Father in Heaven.

Central to Fr Myles’ priesthood was, of course, the Eucharist. The Gospel of John reminds us of Jesus’ words “I am the Bread of Life… whoever eats this bread will live forever.” And so we offer this celebration of the Eucharist for Myles today that the Christ he fed us with will now feed him with the gift of eternal life.

In these days therefore, when we will confide the noble soul of Father Myles to the Lord, whom he loved and served, and his mortal remains to the earth from which he came, our thoughts and prayers are especially with his Vincentian confreres, his family, and his friends and colleagues here today. To his sister, Susie, and brother, Ted, and his nephews and nieces, go our sincerest sympathies and the assurance of our prayers. Sympathies also to our seminarians and students who had him as their personal spiritual director and to our college nurse, Pauline Carbury, and others among our staff who helped Myles through his time of illness. To all his colleagues and friends and confreres and all of you here this afternoon I say ‘thank you’ for the love and support you showed to him. We all journey with you in your loss of a spiritual father a colleague and friend.

Myles, you believed the message about Christ, and you obeyed it by sharing generously with God’s people and with everyone else. Thank you Myles for having listened to the Word, made flesh; thank you for the quality and example of your faith; thank you for your priestly witness and example.

Today all of us here thank God for Myles Rearden, a great priest who has touched our lives and our hearts

There are words in the Gospel that are often used to express the Lord’s welcome and reward to one who has lived in love and faithfulness, and I am sure that Myles understood those words well on his death on Ash Wednesday morning when in the very midst of his morning work he heard Jesus gently whisper in his ear:

Euge, serve bone et fidelis –
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”