Requiem Mass for the Very Rev. Romeo Canon Coia
St Andrew s Cathedral, Dundee, April 28, 2005
Bishop Of Dunkeld Right Reverend Vincent Logan's homily:
In many ways, the Gospel passage to which we have just listened, sums up Canon Coia s faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me."
"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" that single sentence encapsulates our Christian faith, summing up all that Jesus is for us, all that he promises those who believe in Him and all who follow Him, day in and day out.
It is certainly what Canon Coia believed for all of his wonderful 92 years as a follower of Jesus. It is what he learned at a young age, at the heart of his family with his four brothers and two sisters, from his parents.
Canon Coia was born in Glasgow, his parents having moved to Scotland from Italy, and as a young man, growing up, he worked in the family cafe. He was educated at Notre Dame Primary School, St Mungo's Academy and then Glasgow University, before deciding to train to be a teacher at Jordanhill College. He gained an MA from Glasgow University and a BA from London University.
He taught in St Luke's in the Gorbals and in Holyrood High School. And whilst working as a teacher, he met and married his wife Amelia. Sadly, she died in 1949 from tuberculosis. Her niece, Sister Angela, is with us today.
After the loss of his wife, he went to Nunraw, the Cistercian Abbey in East Lothian, where he spent some years. He decided not to become a Cistercian, but to become a diocesan priest and studied at St Peter's Cardross for five years before being ordained in Glasgow in 1959 by Archbishop Campbell.
His teaching experience was put to good use when he was appointed to the then Junior Seminary, Blairs College, Aberdeen, for four years. In 1963 he was appointed curate at St Matthew's Bishopbriggs. He became chaplain to the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in 1970, and after five years there, he became assistant priest at St Albert's Pollokshields.
He was a member of the Advisory panel for the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council and Chairman of the Catholic Youth Council.
In 1976, he came to the Diocese of Dunkeld, as assistant priest in Broughty Ferry, before my predecessor, Bishop William Andrew Hart, appointed him parish priest of St Bride's Monifieth, where he remained for 27 years. He was appointed an Honorary Canon of the Cathedral Chapter of the Cathedral of St Andrew in 1995 to mark his many generous years of service in the Diocese of Dunkeld.
He was synonymous with the parish and the people of Monifieth. He loved them and they loved him. He knew everyone in the parish and practically everybody in the town, generations of families, baptising children and children's children.
He was a great parish priest, a wonderful example and an inspiration to me and to all the priests of the diocese. When we would be thinking about possible new pastoral initiatives “ e.g. the Alpha Course “ we found it was already being followed in a systematic way in Monifieth.
When we introduced new pastoral initiatives, Canon Coia was almost always the first to respond. At gatherings of young people, he would drive the young folk from his parish to the events.
He visited the local primary schools, and was welcomed by staff and pupils alike. He worked tirelessly to foster closer links with other churches and was a much valued and respected colleague and friend to the ministers and their congregations.
He visited homes for the elderly, ------ yes quite, -------- and though he wouldn't have thanked me for saying it when he was alive, he was probably older than many of the residents he was visiting. He was completely committed to St Mary s Home, Monifieth, from the day that it opened; in the pastoral care that he gave and right through to his last days as a member of the Management Committee.
Some years ago, when his health was not so good, and when I knew the Sisters would be leaving St Mary s, I thought of asking him to move into the living quarters of the Sisters at the back of the home. And I concocted a plan to offer him four or five possibilities, with that particular move being option Number 3.
I never got to options four and five. He was out of my house in an instant! That led to us acquiring the house he has stayed in for the past few years.
I can't recall how many times I would phone him and be unable to get him until late at night because he had been out visiting someone in the parish. Mgr Donachie could tell you how he updated his parish visiting lists on the beach on his summer holidays. His address book has over 1000 entries. Quite incredible.
He worked closely with me when the new St Bride's Church was being built and he was always interested in what was going on, keen to be involved in every decision. He phoned me every morning at 8.30. ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ Oh, I could write a book ¦.
And how he rejoiced with the people of Monifieth when the new church was finally completed and opened for worship.
He achieved so much in his time in St Bride's, but in this Year of the Eucharist, perhaps it is appropriate to mention the programme of Perpetual Adoration which he instigated.
When the idea was first mooted, many said it couldn't be done. Those were words Romeo Coia simply didn't understand. It would be done, he would do all that he could to ensure that it was. Now, more than 10 years later, St Bride's weekly programme of Adoration could be a role model for other parishes throughout the diocese.
Quite simply, Canon Coia had the gift of inspiring other people to do things. His enthusiasm and commitment were infectious, he carried people with him as they caught the vision of what he was trying to achieve.
He was a human dynamo, full of energy, full of enthusiasm. He loved life, he loved people, he loved being a priest. I can recall him attending the funeral of the late Cardinal Winning in Glasgow in the morning, and being back in Dundee to visit the sick in Ninewells in the afternoon. And that was only four years ago.
And just last year, he arranged a trip to Japan for a holiday, with the help of a nun he had known in Glasgow. Only, he didn't tell any of his family or friends until the day before he left. He felt sure they might try to stop him and he was having none of that.
He will be greatly missed by all of us who were privileged to know him and to work with him, but he will be most sorely missed by the people of Monifieth. And I do mean the people of Monifieth, not simply the parishioners of St Bride's. For he made a huge contribution to the town, touching the lives of so many.
He was full of life, right up until Easter, when he was admitted to Ninewells Hospital. During Holy Week, he went through his own Passion, as his health deteriorated. He received tremendous care from the staff of Ninewells, many of whom knew him from his regular pastoral visits to the sick.
In my last visits to Canon in Ninewells hospital, I was encouraged and impressed by the presence of his family and how they stayed around him for his last few days. And I know that they were greatly encouraged by the 24-hour watch of the parishioners of St Bride s and the sensitive, daily reports to their fellow parishioners.
Our thanks to go to Canon Coia s priest friends from Glasgow for being there in Monifieth last night, for their presence here today and at the graveside later in Glasgow. Their friendship is much appreciated.
To canon Coia s nephew Adrian, his nieces Maria and Loretta, and their families, we offer our condolences. They mourn the loss of a much loved uncle, as we mourn a much-respected parish priest, colleague and friend.
But as always, we take consolation that for those of us who believe, as Canon Coia did, that death is not the end, but a new beginning. May he share in the resurrection of the Risen Christ and partake of the banquet of eternal life promised by Christ to his faithful disciples.
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
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