Saint Martin’s monk Father Kieran Cunningham, O.S.B., dies
Aug 22, 2005
Lacey – Father Kieran Cunningham, Order of St.
Benedict, a priest and former teacher at Saint Martin’s High School,
died at Providence Mother Joseph Care Center Aug. 21, 2005, of multiple health problems.
He was 79.
Members of the Saint Martin’s University community join
Saint Martin’s Abbey, where Father Kieran had been a member since 1956,
in honoring his life.
A vigil service will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug.
24, at Saint Martin’s Abbey Church, 5300 Pacific Ave., Lacey. Mass of
Christian Burial will be celebrated for him at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug.
25. Burial will follow at Saint Martin’s Abbey Cemetery.
Father Kieran was born Patrick Cunningham on Sept.
4, 1925, in Rothesay, Scotland, to Irish parents, Patrick and Catherine
O’Donnell Cunningham. He attended elementary school in Ireland before
immigrating to the United States in 1947.
After he arrived in the United States, he worked as
a manual laborer at the Tacoma Smelter until 1950, when he enrolled in
Saint Martin’s High School as a non-traditional student. He graduated in
Fellow abbey member Brother Boniface V. Lazzari,
O.S.B., described Father Kieran as “deeply spiritual and sometimes
evidencing a shy side.” As a high school student, his empathy for a
fellow non-traditional-aged student encouraged the other young man to
persevere and finish high school. The student later went on to finish
college and then graduate school, grateful for the kind “push” he
received from the young man who would become Father Kieran, he said.
In 1953, Father Kieran also became a naturalized
citizen of the United States. He was invested as a novice at Saint
Martin’s Abbey in 1956. Following his graduation from Saint Martin’s
College in 1958, he pursued theological studies at Oregon’s Mount Angel
Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1962 by Seattle
Archbishop Thomas A. Connley and celebrated his first mass at St. Ann
Parish in Tacoma.
Father Kieran was a graduate student first at
Seattle University and then at Chicago’s St. Xavier University, where he
was awarded a master of arts degree in theology in 1971.
He taught Saint Martin’s High School students
classes in geography, Washington history and religion. He also served as
dormitory prefect from 1962 to 1970 and as vice principal from 1971
until the school’s closure in 1974.
His monastic assignments included service as a
subprior and monastery guestmaster.
As a priest, Father Kieran occasionally assisted at
Holy Cross Parish in Tacoma and Christ the King Parish in Seattle. From
1974 to 1978, he was assistant pastor at Lacey’s Sacred Heart Parish. In
1978, he was appointed pastor of Saint Edward Parish in Shelton, and
under his leadership, Saint Edward Parish Hall was constructed. From
1987 through his retirement in 2003, he was chaplain at Olympia’s St.
“His interests were people – he was very
pastoral-minded,” said Abbot Neal Roth, O.S.B., of Saint Martin’s Abbey.
“He was very religious in his approach to life, interested in religious
things and clearly, a very spiritual person.”
Abbot Neal said while Father Kieran didn’t have
hobbies, he was very proud of his Irish heritage and had a deep love for
his extended family, who lived in Seattle, Tacoma and Lacey. He enjoyed
taking short trips to visit them, said Abbot Neal.
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