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Durnin, Dermot, 1913-1980, Jesuit priest
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Dates of existence
11 January 1913-06 December 1980
Born: 11 January 1913, Clontarf, Dublin
Entered: 18 September 1931, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1945
Final vows: 02 February 1948
Died: 06 December 1980, Tenerife, Spain
Part of St Francis Xavier's community, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin.
Younger brother of Des - RIP 1982
Irish Province News 56th Year No 1 1981
A week after Dermot Durnin’s death, we are still stunned by the fact. He and his quick wit will be missed very much, not only by his brethren here but also, grievously, by his “ladies” in St Monica’s. He had built up such a cheery relationship with every one of them and used to give them so much of his time that the news was really shattering and has left them still bewildered. At least they must have been comforted by the send-off we gave him: 65 priests concelebrated the Mass in a crowded church. One of the congregation remarked that the ceremony was “heavenly”. (One of the community was overheard wondering aloud if Dermot was digging his friend Pearse O’Higgins in the ribs and begging him to “tell that one again”.) His totally Christian attitude towards death, an attitude of joyful anticipation, prevents us from grudging him his reward, though this doesn't diminish our sense of loss.
On 22nd December, Fr Mark Quigley slipped away from us to make his way to Heaven: requiescat in pace! It was typical of him that his departure was so quiet and peaceful as to be almost unnoticed. When he did not get up that morning, it was found that he was only half-conscious and had the appearance of approaching death. The doctor confirmed that he had only a few hours to live. Many of the community visited him during the morning and prayed with him and for him. Though he could not speak clearly, when asked if he would like the prayers for the dying to be said, by nodding his head he acknowledged his awareness of imminent death. Just about half an hour before he died, he succeeded in pulling his crucifix up to his lips and kissing it. Three of us were with him when he breathed his last gentle breath, without the slightest sound or struggle.
Go ndéanaí Dia trócaire ar a anam mín mánla.
Fr Dermot Durnin (1913-1931-1980)
It would of course be presumptuous to attempt to evaluate another Jesuit's quality or achievements. I only wish here to express my appreciation of Dermot Durnin. I knew him well early in his Jesuit life and at the end of it. I did not live with him at all during the central period when he was teaching.
In his young period, Dermot might well have been described as bouncy, buoyant, breezy - or something like that. In his later years these stimulating and attractive characteristics had mellowed into a very deep and helpful optimism, a reassuring hopefulness and good humour that made him many friends and gave him great influence with people. The transition seemed as easy as the transforming of blossom into fruit - but I'm sure much prayer and deliberate effort went into the process.
He was really quite a taut personality. I remember how in the novitiate he used to talk and laugh and sing in his sleep, and how hard it was to wake him gently out of sleep. He was inclined to lash out with shock when he was awakened. In the noviceship he had a few black-outs which gave rise to anxiety about his health and caused his first vows to be postponed for six months. He was always affected by strident noise in his vicinity - and seemed to wilt under excessive heartiness and loudness. But, characteristically, he would calm down the offending trumpeter with a joke rather than a dirty look.
He was always one of the good humoured people in the grim days of too early rising, excessively tense and prolonged periods of silence, along with restricted human contacts and relationships. He rode the adverse currents, and was never submerged by them.
Many sagas, myths and legends of the 30s and 40s will be lost to posterity now that he and Pearse O’Higgins have taken the long car to Glasnevin. He loved to trigger off at will any of Pearse’s stories, and would then enjoy both the story and Pearse’s absorption in the playing of the familiar record. They were both enthusiastic and reasonably skilled performers on the mouth-organ. Dermot had a very good ear for music and languages. He really loved to fire off a sentence in some more unusual language with perfect intonation, so that a speaker of that language would presume that he was fully fluent in it: he did it in Basque, Hungarian and some African language as well as Spanish, French, etc. It made immediate and friendly contact.
He played music constantly in his room. These last few years I never passed his door on the narrow corridor in Gardiner street without hearing the pleasant sounds of Mozart or Bach or someone in Dermot’s room, as he worked on his voluminous correspondence with the supporters of the JSA. Much of the harmony seems to have seeped into his letters. People loved to get them and felt he was a friend of theirs: perhaps he made giving easy. He was devoted to things Irish, but found much of Irish music, strangely, somewhat boring. One of the ways he served the elderly in St Monica's these last years was by getting them to sing at the liturgy. He brought great vitality to them, and nowhere is he more missed than there. I never saw him in action in Lourdes, but have no doubt about the tremendous love he had for the place and all whom he met. He spent some months there every year,
He was always something of a sun worshipper: I remember one villa in Termonfeckin during theology when the weather was very poor and most people spent their time indoors, playing cards or talking the hind-legs off the chairs: Dermot and I used to go down to the beach and absorb whatever rays were percolating through the mists. At the end of the fortnight, when others looked more pallid and dyspeptic than when they started their holiday, we looked as if we had been on the Riviera. So – if he had to go as soon as this – I like to think that he went with the much-loved caress of the sun on his skin; an indication of the warmth and all-embracing nature of the welcome he must have received from the Good Spirit which was his guiding light. I hope he is happy, even laughing, as I write this well-meant rubbish.
Dermot began teaching in the Crescent, Limerick, in 1947. He was an extremely able and dedicated teacher. He could being poor-ability classes to the examination standards required. If boys were anyway weak in subjects they petitioned to be assigned to his classes. While insisting on work being done he was always bright and humorous in class.
He also helped in the production of the school operas - a feature of the school in those days – training the boys in learning and acting their parts. He was also spiritual father to the boys and in charge of some of the school sodalities as well as sub-minister, till his illness necessitated a lessening of activity.
Sr Thérèse Marie of the Poor Clares in Lourdes sent the following tribute:
We think especially of a dear and very good friend, Father Dermot Durnin (SJ, Dublin), who died unexpectedly on 6th December. This year (1980) had been his tenth year coming to Lourdes as Spiritual guide to the Michael Walsh Groups – a job that he took very much to heart, and every one of ‘his pilgrims' left Lourdes full of joy and satisfaction after the 4-5-day pilgrimage that he had helped them to make. He gave hope, joyful hope, to everyone, because he himself had complete trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus!
Fr Durnin had a deep love for our Lady and for the Rosary, His pilgrims will never forget their nightly Rosary across the river from the Grotto, nor the little story which he loved to repeat to every group, in order to bring them all closer to Her: the story of the small child who got lost in Dublin. She was crying and frightened as onlookers and Guards questioned her: “Where do you live? Where is your home?”, and all the little one could sob out was, “It's where my mammy is!” Then Father would point out to his listeners that our home, our true home, is where Mary, our Mother, is. Surely She welcomed him in there on 8th December! We can picture him now, with that winning, almost laughing smile, saying “Why should you worry? I'm home!”
He will always be remembered here: he was part of our chapel, and we could always count on him, in the absence of our Chaplain, for the Rosary and Benediction. He came many times into the enclosure to bring holy Communion to our sick nuns. None of us looked on him as “a foreigner”. His gentle manner and discretion radiated the peace of Christ whom he carried. His visits to the parlour were a joy. We know that he will not forget us now in the heavenly country where, as he liked to say, all is glorious music and song!
Another former chaplain at Lourdes, who had met Fr Dermot there, namely Fr Hugh Gallagher, PP, Clonmany, Co Donegal, thought highly enough of him to make the long journey from farthest Inishowen to be present at the Gardiner street requiem.
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Durnin, Dermot, 1913-1980, Jesuit priest
Dates of relationship
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- County Dublin » Dublin City » Clontarf
- Spain » Canary Islands » Tenerife
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Upper Gardiner Street » St Francis Xavier's Residence
- County Laois (Queen's) » Emo » St Mary's (Emo)
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Belvedere Place » St Monica's Nursing Home
- County Limerick » Limerick City » The Crescent » Sacred Heart College SJ, 1859-1974
- France » Occitanie » Lourdes
- County Dublin » Dundrum
- County Louth » Castlebellingham
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