Fr Daniel (Dan) Augustine Canniffe was born on 3 July 1928 in Bandon, Co Cork. Educated at Bandon NS, Hamilton High School, Bandon, and St Finbarr’s College, Farenferris, Cork, he came to St Columban’s, Navan in September 1945.
Ordained priest on 21 December 1951, Dan was appointed to Japan. He spent seven years there. After language studies he was involved in pastoral work in Yakatamachi, Wakayama City.
There he was involved in using all the usual techniques to make the Church known. This included posters, street collections for the poor, film shows, lectures by invited speakers, promotion of the Legion of Mary, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Young Christian Workers. Those were the years of plenty in post-war Japan when many people entered the Church.
After his first home vacation, dan was appointed to Mission promotion work in Ireland for the following five years. In 1965, the first “Retired Wing” was established in Dalgan, and Dan was appointed its first Superior or “Wing Commander”.
After ten years in this position Dan was appointed to pastoral work at St John’s Parish, Tralee where he spent seven happy years. He was once again recalled to Dalgan as House Superior from 1982 to 1986.
Following this he returned again to pastoral work in Tralee, this time in St Brendan’s parish from 1986 to 1999. He was widely known and loved in Tralee: his bantering style concealed a deep pastoral concern and he related well to both young and old.
His health began to deteriorate around this time and he retired to St Columban’s Retirement Home where he remained until his final illness.
Dan loved to have a small bet on the horses, and for years he willingly placed bets for any other interested ‘punters’ in the Retirement Home as part of his morning schedule.
His final illness was the result of a fall; he lost consciousness, was briefly treated in Beaumont Hospital, before returning to die in Dalgan on the afternoon of 28 June 2018.
May he rest in peace.
Funeral Mass for Fr Dan Canniffe on 3rd July 2018
Homily by Fr Pat Raleigh
Good morning again and a very warm welcome to you all as we gather together to give thanks to God for the life and faithful ministry of Fr Dan Canniffe.
After all the activities here in Dalgan over the weekend to celebrate the Centenary of the Society, 100 years of Columban Mission, it is now good for us to spend some quiet time in remembering Fr Dan.
Many of you, particularly the Columbans will be surprised to see that I am the Celebrant of Fr Dan’s Funeral Mass. There was nobody more surprised than myself. It was only when I opened Fr Dan’s Will that I discovered that he had written that he would like me to be the celebrant of his Funeral Mass, provided I was available.
My initial response was to say no. I even went to a number of Columbans to see if anybody was willing. I was not very successful.
Reflecting on what Dan has written in his Will I take it as privilege that he invited me.
I particularly welcome the friends of Dan here this morning, the Commane family from Tralee, the Fitzgerald family from Tralee, the Hopkins family from Shankill and the Breen family from Tralee. I am sure there are other friends here also.
A Special Day
There is a certain poignancy about today as well as a sense of gratitude. Dan is being buried on his 90th birthday. He had so looked forward to it. When I visited his room I noticed this 90th birthday card sitting on his bedlocker near his bed.
The jigsaw puzzle was solved for me on Saturday morning when Rhona Hopkins phoned. I knew from Dan that he had very good friends in South Dublin with whom he used to spend his vacation and also at Christmas, as well as attending Leopardstown Races. I never actually knew your names until I received your phone call on Saturday Rhona.
It was so obvious that you Rhona, your mother Mary, Cllodagh and all the family were deeply upset on hearing third hand the news of Dan’s death.
You have been friends of Fr Dan for over fifty years. Since he was the only child of parents who were also only children, he had no cousins or close relatives. Mary when you discovered this, you adopted him as a member of your family. What a lovely gesture.
I do remember when talking to him that he would become very animated when he was about to go on his holidays or to visit you. Thank you so much Mary and family for your generosity.
As you said to me on the phone he loved his game of golf, his game of cards and his visits to the Racecourses.
It was a lovely touch that you enclosed with your birthday card some tokens for the Bookies Office. He would have liked that. Who knows that as we speak he might be having a little bet right now in his new home!!!
It is also a coincidence that today is Fergal’s birthday, (Mary’s son)
I apologise for not phoning you beforehand to let you know that he was ill, the reason being that I di not have your phone number.
Dan spent his first seven years as a Columban missionary in Japan.
On the occasion of his Golden Jubilee in December 2001 with his friends in Tralee he described this as a great time in his career and said that it was in Japan that he learned how important the laity were to the Church. He also at this celebration in 2001 that the role and the participation of the laity was more important than ever now.
Bandon: Jerry Slattery
This morning I had an e-mail from Jerry Slattery: I will be thinking of you all today as you say goodbye to a fellow Bandon man. The last time I met him he was in great form and he told me the only real worry he had was that Heaven was not going to be half as good as Dalgan! When I asked him what he meant he explained his daily routine and how brilliantly he was being looked after in his retirement. He said that his most important chore of the day after prayers was picking a winner at whatever race meeting that was on and finishing the day with a glass of whiskey!!! He felt when he got to heaven he would have to start doing his own washing and cooking and God would surely have him back to work!
Apart from his home town of Bandon, Tralee became his second home for many years.
In Tralee, he served in the parishes of St John and Our Lady and St Brendan.
During his years in Tralee he made many friends, amongst whom were the Commane family. I am delighted that you are here with us this morning. To the Commane family thank you for making the long journey to Beaumont Hospital last Thursday morning to spend some quiet time with him before he was discharged back to the Nursing Home here in Dalgan.
He often spoke of you and of his friendship with you and of how good you were to him. He used to enjoy your visits to Dalgan. Thank you so much. I am sure the same could be said of other friendships he made not only in Tralee but elsewhere.
I am also aware of his friendship with the Fitzgerald and Breen families in Tralee and am delighted that you are present today.
Forgive me if I haven’t mentioned the names of other families who were his close friends.
Over the past few days I have been trying to do a little research on Dan as he was a very private person.
He was a people’s person and that I saw for myself here in the Nursing Home in Dalgan and during the few weeks he spent in Navan Hospital some months ago. He easily made friends and people were attracted to him.
He was a very pastoral person and during his years in Tralee he visited the Hospitals on a very regular basis as well as home visitation. He loved dropping in to see people in their homes.
He used to organise the annual fundraising event for St Brendan’s Parish in Tralee, known as ‘A night at the Dogs’. He would have been in his element doing this.
It was also pointed out to me that he never left people waiting. If there was an emergency he would drop everything and go immediately and visit the person.
If my memory serves me right Dan was the one to initiate Cemetery Sunday in Dalgan, a wonderful legacy.
He served the Community in Dalgan well filling the role of House Bursar, House Spuerior and Director of the Nursing Home, referred to at that time as ‘Wing Commander’.
Reflections from Columbans
Since Dan’s death I received a number of e-mails from Columbans around the world expressing their condolences. The following is a flavour of what I received:
‘He was one of nature’s gentlemen; when we were students here in Dalgan he was House Bursar and we had great fun with him; He was a great communicator; he was a very welcoming person; he was a kind and thoughtful person who always took an interest in people and appreciated a chat. He achieved much in his own humble way: He always showed a great interest in my work in Pakistan; he was a person full of life; the news was a shock because Dan seemed indestructible. We were both little maids in the Mikado. I thought he would bury us all’
My own personal reflections
I found him to be a very generous person and somebody who took a great interest in my work and indeed in the work of the Society. I used to enjoy my chats with him when I would visit him in his room t night and when he spent time in Navan Hospital. He was always full of questions and certainly wasn’t afraid to give an opinion on things.
When I would drop by the chapel near the Nursing Home at night on my way to the Office Dan would be there.
He loved the chat with the Nurses and Carers at night over a cup of tea and would always bring the Newspaper for them to read during the night.
He certainly was very independent and didn’t take it too kindly when I suggested that he might give up driving. He told me in no uncertain terms that the doctor had given him permission. I even heard recently that he was intending to buy another car.
In recent times we were quite concerned that he would have an accident or cause an accident. Thank God this did not happen.
He had a great will to live and did want to be resuscitated if he got ill but this was not to be.
Hospital and Nursing Care
I want to sincerely thank the staff at the Beaumont Hospital for their great care of Dan and for the time they gave to Shinto and myself to chat things over.
My thanks also to the Nursing Home staff for their care. Like the rest of us they too will miss him.
The first reading is very familiar to us and taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes. In this reading we are told that there is a time and season for everything and God has made everything suitable for its time. In Dan’s case God saw it fit to welcome him home on the eve of the Centenary of the Society, on Thursday 28th June. God saw that it was fitting that he be laid to rest today the 3rd July, his 90th birthday. I am sure he is celebrating it now and he may even be having a little bet. Mary Hopkins he might be even using the tokens you gave him.
The second reading that I selected is the lovely reading from St Paul to Timothy. As death approaches, St Paul reflects on his life. He is happy about the past and hopeful for the future. Dan certainly fought the good fight and kept the faith. He is now enjoying the loving embrace of a gracious and compassionate God.
The Gospel that I chose is taken from the Gospel of St John. There are many Gospel passages that I could have chosen. The words of Jesus are very beautiful when he said too his disciples, ‘do not let your hearts be troubled…In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places and I am going to prepare a place for you’. Thomas one of the disciples, like ourselves at times, was very confused and said ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. This is what Dan is now experiencing that Jesus is indeed the way, the truth and the life.
Death a door into the light
This morning we remember Dan as one of the faithful departed – not just one of the faithful departed from us, but as one of the faithful returned to God
Dan in his own unique way touched the lives of so many people, young and old. He planted seeds of faith in many people’s lives. We now hand Dan back to God the source of life. We pray in this Eucharist for his eternal peace and joy. Today on his 90th birthday, Dan’s life story passes before us, with its memories, joys, sorrows, disappointments and successes.
Close to God
In a strange way a day like this when we celebrate with thanksgiving Dan’s life we are drawn closer to God. It is on a day like this and on days like Sunday when we celebrated our centenary that we truly discover God’s love, mercy and compassion.
Today we hold precious the memory of Dan and of all the faithful departed who have been called to return to God.
We thank and bless God for the many ways, even if we do not always recognise them, that Dan has enriched our lives. We pray that he will continue to remember us from his place in heaven
‘Ar dheis De go raibh a anam uasal’