Monday 10 March 2008
Following the recent death of Monsignor David Gemmell, Cardinal Keith O Brien has issued the following personal tribute :
I knew David Gemmell for literally all of my priestly life “ initially when I was a teacher of mathematics and School Chaplain in St Columba s Secondary School, in Cowdenbeath and then Dunfermline, between 1966 and 1971 where David was a pupil. At that time, I was able to help him discern his priestly vocation. Some years later, I was appointed as Spiritual Director of our seminary at St Andrew s College, Drygrange where David was by this time a deacon in his final year of preparation for ordination.
David was ordained in 1978 and I became Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh in 1985 from then on David and his brother priests of the Archdiocese became in a special way my friends and colleagues in ministry. As Archbishop I asked David to fulfil various heavy and responsible roles for me, particularly as a valued member of the seminary staff both at Gillis College and later at the National Senior Seminary, Scotus College in Glasgow. This role as mentor and friend to other priests continued throughout his life. Meanwhile as a Vicar general in our Archdiocese he became one of my closest advisors.
His last and particular service for me was as Administrator of St Mary s Cathedral, Edinburgh “ where he relished presenting the loving, caring and compassionate face of Jesus Christ to all who came to the Cathedral, whether Catholics of the parish or from elsewhere in the Archdiocese, members of other Christian denominations or members of the many world faiths present in our Capital City. Nor did he ever forget the needs of those of no faith at all but seeking help in some way or another.
He had a wonderful vision for the Cathedral “ not just as a place where worship would take place, but also as being a pastoral centre at the heart of the City of Edinburgh where people could and would come for a variety of reasons to make contact with Jesus Christ himself, but also to make contact with one another and build up the Body of Christ. Through his initiatives a hall was built adjoining the Cathedral last year; CafÃ© Camino was opened for anyone who wished to come; and a magnificent new organ was built within the Cathedral and opened just one week ago.
At the official opening recital of the organ, I was able to speak of the magnificent instrument as our ˜gift , not only to the Cathedral Parish, but to the City, to Scotland and indeed to the whole world coming to Edinburgh in increasing numbers, especially at Festival time. Similarly, I indicated with regard to the whole Cathedral complex: David had opened it to all who wished to come “ either in their private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, to share in Sunday worship or the great liturgies of the Church s year, or to socialise in the hall or cafeteria.
His vision extended outwith the boundaries of Scotland. Like myself, he had volunteered to work on the missions, but his missionary service had been deferred. My missionary service was deferred by my predecessor, Cardinal Gray; David s missionary service had been deferred by myself “ I valued his apostolate, along with his ministry, friendship and support too much at home!
However, he travelled with me on some of my missionary journeys as friend and companion “ visiting El Salvador, Chiapas in Mexico, Guatemala and then just some months ago, Vietnam and China.
David was a good and faithful friend and a loyal priest. He welcomed me into his family, as I welcomed him into the family of the Archdiocese. His home in Oakley became a regular haven of rest over the years, sharing the love and wisdom of his mum and dad, and whichever members of his family happened to be present. I share the grief of Josephine, David s mother, along with his loving family of brothers and sisters.
He was indeed a real brother to me and to so many; he was a priest whose arms were extended like the opened arms of Christ to welcome any who turned to him for help and advice. May he now receive the reward of his labours as he in turn will surely be welcomed by the Good Shepherd whom he had tried so faithfully to serve .