CLEVELAND, Ohio — Retired Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland lived his call to service by loving his brothers and sisters to whom he ministered throughout his priesthood, recalled Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont.
He remembered his friend as someone who did not seek sainthood, but was satisfied to serve the faithful in any way that would bring them closer to God.
Coyne made the comments during his homily at Lennon’s funeral Mass Nov. 5 at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in downtown Cleveland.
Lennon, the 10th bishop of Cleveland, died Oct. 29 at 72. He had resigned in December 2016 because of ill health after serving the diocese for a decade.
The two met while Coyne was a seminarian and Lennon was a parish priest when they enrolled in a course on Cardinal John Henry Newman at the seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, the Vermont bishop recalled. They became close friends after Coyne’s 1986 ordination and subsequent assignment to a parish neighboring the one where Lennon was serving.
Coyne, 11 years younger than Lennon, shared several stories about their friendship. He reflected particularly on the day in late December 2016 that Lennon called him to say he had submitted his resignation at age 69 to Pope Francis because of growing memory loss and dementia.
Bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation at age 75.
“I told him how sorry I was to hear of his bad health and the resignation and asked if there is anything I could do,” Coyne told the congregation. “He said, ‘Yes. I want to do this before my brain gets too foggy. I want to ask you to preach at my funeral, but under one condition: No eulogy. I am not a saint nor do I want to be raised to sainthood.'”
“I said, ‘I agree,’ to which he said, ‘So you’ll preach at my funeral?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘I agree you are not a saint.’ He laughed and laughed.”
Coyne also said his friend could be “headstrong.”
“Once he made up his mind, if he believed he was doing the right thing for the right reasons, it was hard to convince him otherwise,” Coyne said.
“But like all of us who believe, he knew he could rely on the mercy of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” he said. “Richard trusted the words that we heard from the letter to Timothy,’ … that if we have died with Christ we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him.’ But he also knew that the ultimate judgment of one’s righteousness before God is made by Jesus Christ.”
After the Mass, Lennon was interred in the cathedral’s Resurrection Chapel.
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