Funeral Mass for Bishop David McGough

Thursday 20 April saw family, friends, clergy and colleagues gathered for the Funeral Mass of Bishop David McGough at St Chad’s Cathedral.

Archbishop Bernard Longley welcomed all of those present, including Bishop David’s family and his former parishioners as well as Bishop Jan McFarlane and Emeritus Dean Adrian Dorber from Lichfield Cathedral, where Bishop David was an Ecumenical Canon.

Fr Terry Bloor, who represented the Bishop of Stafford, Robert Mountford who represented ecumenical partnerships in Staffordshire and the West Midlands, and those who represented our friends at St Philip’s Cathedral were all welcomed.

Archbishop Bernard also welcomed the staff and pupils of Hagley Catholic High School, where Bishop David served as Chaplain between 1990 and 2005, and the staff from St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Stourbridge.

His Grace added: “I am very grateful to Bishop David’s brother bishops for concelebrating this Requiem Mass and in particular Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, the Vice President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, together with Abbot Geoffrey Scott and Abbot David Charlesworth, and the many brother priests and deacons assembled from across the Archdiocesan family and beyond.”

He mentioned also those who could not attend in person, but who were there in spirit.

Homily – Archbishop Bernard Longley

The power of Jesus to save is utterly certain, since he is living forever to intercede for all who come to God through him.

For all of us who know Bishop David it takes very little imagination to be able to hear his voice repeating with conviction those words from the Letter to the Hebrews declaring his own firm faith in the risen Christ. 

Without the least intention of promoting his own image Bishop David’s voice, his characteristic expressions, both in looks and words, and his personal way of being have left a deep impression on each one of us – so that we can, very easily and quite fittingly, call him to mind during this Requiem Mass.

With his life-long love of the Word of God and his scholarly fascination with the Scriptures, for what they continue to reveal about Jesus Christ and about our own journeys of faith, David would not thank me for offering you a panegyric which simply praised the qualities of his personality and the achievements of his life as an academic and pastor.  But he would forgive me for searching within the triumphs and the failures, the strengths and the frailties that he knew for the presence of Christ crucified and risen from the dead.

That same risen Christ poured out his sacramental anointing on David to sustain him along the pathways of deep faith and heartfelt service.  Two weeks ago many of us were here and in other Cathedral churches for the Chrism Mass of Holy Week, when the oils of the catechumens and the sick were blessed and the oil of chrism was consecrated. 

One of the joys of Bishop David’s company was the facility he had for capturing a person, an encounter or an event by recounting a story.  So much of our more recent diocesan history was distilled in his story-telling – and his love of the Scriptures often found expression through reflecting on bible stories.  He would certainly have offered some significant insights on St Luke’s story of the widow of Nain proclaimed as today’s Gospel.

Bishop David was anointed with the oil of chrism as priest and bishop to preach the Word of God and to celebrate the Sacraments.  With the family tradition and experience to support him, he knew how to express the compassion of Christ for those who had lost loved ones and how best to affirm our faith in the Resurrection and the Lord’s call to eternal life. 

He was often called upon to preach at clergy funerals – and he always drew our thoughts back to the central message of Easter:  I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord: whoever believes in me will never die.

The presence of Bishop David’s large family, his brother priests and bishops, and a wide range of colleagues, parishioners and friends testifies to the many different strands of his life of service. 

He was a wonderful teacher and a dedicated and loving pastor, a true son of the Potteries with a passion for cricket, a loyal Catholic with an ecumenical heart, a beloved brother, uncle and cousin who cherished family life, and the wisest of counsellors.

But the accolade that has been most often repeated since his death – and the only one that counts before the throne of God’s mercy – he was a good man, aware of his failings and limitations, but whose belief and trust in Jesus Christ carried him through this life and has opened the way to life everlasting.  The power of Jesus to save is utterly certain, since he is living forever to intercede for all who come to God through him.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.  Amen.


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