Thursday, January 21, 2010

Funeral of John J. Deeney, sj

Dear Tom,

Peace of Christ!

Tomorrow is Sunday, 24th Jan., and Chaibasa parish will have only one Mass at 8 a.m. and once again it is for the repose of Fr. John Deeney. The Mass will be in Ho and after the Mass as per the Ho tradition his soul will be brought to the house, so that he dwells with us ever. In Ho calling the Spirit is called "Keya Ader". I believe there will be once again a huge gathering of Christian Hos gathering for this ceremony.

Unfortunately I can't make it for tomorrow as I have my own Christian community to be taken care of being Sunday. Here in Pandabir also tomorrow's Mass will be offered for his soul. Many of my parishioners especially the old Catholics baptised by John Deeney were there for the funeral and also from all the neighbouring parishes. John Deeney was for all. Therefore, many non-catholics were also there to give him the final homage. I have not taken any photos but everything has been recorded and I am sure one of us will send you the photos.

That's all for today.


Greg D'Silva, SJ,

I am sorrry I am late. I got stuck in other works.

It is a brief report of the funeral of John Deeney. I will send you detailed report after sometime together with photos. We will also try to send you a CD of the video of the funeral.

After the three hours journey from Jamshedpur to Chabasa, the ambulance carrying the body of John Deeney was received half km before Chaibasa Parish by the school band of 80 school boys and a big crowd of admirers of John Deeney.

It was really moving welcoming John Deeney to Chaibasa by the School Band and taking the ambulance in a procession to the Parish Prysbytery.Elaborate arrangements were made for everything by the people of Chaibsa to honor and bid farewell to their beloved pastor and friend.

The funeral mass was attended by some 2500 people (around 120 priests concelebrating with the Provincial). The mass was in Hindi and Ho. The homily in Hindi was preached by Fr. CR Prabhu (the vicar general of Jamshepdur Diocese). The homily in HO was preached by Fr. Camil Hembrom the parish priest of Chaibasa.

After Communion I read the eulogy prepared by John Deeney's family (later translated in to Hindi). Fr. George Deeney OCD, who arrived on 21 January in Jamshedpur, spoke for a few minutes expressing his sentiments for John Deeney.

He was laid to rest close to the Parish Church according to the Ho customs.

Well, I have not seen such a grand and moving funeral in my life. Seeing the crowds (Catholics, non-Christians, government officials) and people's response and contribution in arranging such a grand funeral, one can imagine how much John Deeney has touched the hearts of the people. During the mass and during our conservations one thing repeatedly came up "he lived a saintly life", "he was a saintly man".

We Jamshedpur Jesuits cannot thank the Deeney family enough for giving such a saintly man to India, especially Jamshepdur, a Saint. The Church in Jamshedpur was blessed and so lucky to have him.

Thank you very much for all your prayers and words of condolences.
I am sure John Deeney, who is with God now will intercede for you all and of us in India.

I will send you the details Photos a little later.

Jerry Cutinha SJ

After the funeral yesterday, I rode back to Jamshedpur with the Provincial and Father Guidera. It was a three hour drive back. The funeral took just about 4 and a half hours with all the Ho ceremonies done with the highest diligence. And I was just too exhausted to even open my computer.

It was a day of both tremendous grief and at the same time, the most peaceful joy.

The body of Uncle John was brought by ambulance from Jamshedpur accompanied by some Jesuits (Father Jerry C. being one of them) and some other Jesuits and some Sisters. It left at 9 AM and arrived at Chaibasa around 12. It was met at the city limits by a huge crowd of Ho people with a band... the band and people brought the body to the church.

At the church, the casket was opened and some of the Ho people, led by the pastor of the parish, went through the Ho ceremony of anointing the body with oil, then inviting the Provincial, myself and the pastor to anoint with oil and make the sign of the Cross on his forehead. then he was vested in the Ho manner. Then the Provincial, myself and UJ's superior from Lupungutu had to cup our hands together forming three layers and 7 times a handful of grains were passed from UJ's hand to ours forming a type of "waterfall" of grains... the symbol was something about the richness of his life being passed on. Then he was draped with garlands of flowers.

After that, at about 1 we took his body to the school yard where the Mass was to be held... the church would have been entirely too small. The people then filled by his body for an hour. The priests who were present were getting vested. Altogether there were about 120 priests someone told me who counted. The estimate of the people who were present was about 2,500.

The Mass was in Hindi and Ho. There were two sermons, one in Hindi and one in Ho. I was told that the gist of both sermons was that "we were privileged to have a saint among us." During the Hindi sermon, the vicar general of the diocese, Father Prahbu, specifically turned to me and in English charged me with conveying to the family of John Deeney the gratitude of the Ho people and the province and diocese of Jamshedpur for giving John Deeney to us. There was a large about of singing, all in Ho.

After the communion, Father Jerry Cutinha read Johnny Gill's beautiful letter another priest then gave a summary in Ho.

I spoke after that briefly and it was translated simultaneously. This is what I said:

On 14 November of 1968 Father John Deeney's father died. Less than two months later, on 12 January of 1969 his mother died. Father John Deeney was not able to be home for the funeral of his parents. One year later, in 1970 Father Deeney was able to make a home visit. I was a young seminarian at the time and Father Deeney celebrated a Mass in his parents home for his family. The Gospel of the Mass that day contained the line "Where your heart is, there also your treasure lies." In the sermon Father Deeney said that God had given him a great treasure in calling him to India but that he did not realize until the death of his parents that to accept the one treasure, it was necessary for him make a sacrifice of another treasure, the reassure of his family.

You made my Uncle John's life rich because you were his treasure.
My Uncle John loved being a Jesuit.
He loved being a Jesuit of the Jamshedpur Province
He loved being a Jesuit of the Jamshedpur Province in Chaibasa.

You enriched him and because you enriched him you also enriched us, the members of his family.

Humbly as a member of his family and for all my family members, I thank you for all you have given to him, and through him, to us."

After that was the procession across the street to the Church. It took almost an hour to go the distance of about a football field.

The pastor did not want Uncle John buried in the parish cemetery but wants to build a shrine right in front of the main entrance to the church... a real shrine. The Ho people, including some of the Ho priests carried the casket. They circled the grave 7 times. The inside of the grave was lined with white shawls which people were giving... many, many shawls. One of the priests told me that the more shawls, the greater the person... and he had never seen so many shawls... finally the Provincial stopped it and suggested that Father Deeney would rather that the shawls be given to the poor. This was after I said to the Provincial that I thought my Uncle would be a little annoyed with all this fuss.... anyway, then I said the prayers at the grave.

And it was over. Very, very moving. The love that these people have for him... "The Apostle of the Hos" I believe that they will put that on his gravemarker.

The Province had an official photographer and also had the whole thing filmed. They will get it to all the family when it is all ready. They are also making a 30 minute film on his life and ministry in Chaibasa among the Hos. They, as we, fully believe him to be a saint. They want to prepare things well for whatever may happen.

As more comes back to me, I will write from my perspective and my understanding. Father Jerry will also write today.

These Jesuits love us, as they love their brother John.
George Deeney, OCD

It makes me feel good all over that my short missives have kept you all updated on what was happening as you joined us miles away praying for for John Deeney, to John Deeney for all of you and us.

I am sure over the phone Frs. John Guidera and Jerry may have have given you a live report on what happened. Fr. George Deeney has just borrowed the lap top from Jerry - so he must be shooting off an eye witness account of what he saw, felt and all that went on with such a grand send off for Fr. John Deeney.

The funeral cortege was welcomed by all the people. There 80 or more playing in the school Drum and Bugle Corp to greet the cortege. The funeral got over at 5 p.m. There must have been over 2000 of the faithful gathered under the shamiana with nearly a hundred or more priests on the stage concelebrating. Fantastic arrangements.

Our chaps returned only around 8 p.m. or later after a bone crushing, dusty journey - in some places the road is chopped up - gives you the feeling of being rocked on a boat during a storm! I used to feel nauseated. The ambulance avoided the bumpity path and took by lanes to assure a smooth final ride for Fr. John Deeney.

That's it from me. I will allow others to fill you in!

Signing off,

Eric Cassel, SJ

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