by Father James Sweeney
Recently, the Church of Brooklyn buried Msgr. James Cooney, one of its brightest lights and dearest blessings. He touched countless people with his humor, his dedication and his self-sacrificing service to others. I had the privilege of serving in the parish of Our Lady of the Presentation, Brownsville, where he had served for many years in the 1960s and 70s. I became pastor there in 2008, many years after Jim had gone on to other assignments, and yet his name was still revered and remembered with great affection.
In the first few weeks that I was there, one morning after the 9 a.m. Mass, while I was chatting with the ladies in front of the church, a gentleman approached me and asked if I was a priest of the “Church.” He told me that he and his wife had seen me while they were sitting at a table in Dunkin’ Donuts right across the street on Eastern Parkway. He then asked me if I knew a priest by the name of Jim Cooney, and he went on to tell me just how incredibly wonderful Jim had been to him and his family.
“That was a holy man, Padre,” he said. “I mean it didn’t matter that we were Baptists. He just loved people. Everybody got treated the same.”
He then proceeded to tell me that Jim had a profound effect on his life, as he was now a Baptist pastor and preached in a prominent church in North Carolina. He said his whole desire to serve in the ministry started with the desire to do the same kind of good things he had seen in the life of Father Jim.
There are few joys greater for a priest than to see the good work and the fruits of one of his brother priests. So I was delighted to be able to reconnect the two men.
However that was not the end of the story. A few days later, the Rev. James Carter returned to Our Lady of the Presentation to say, “Padre, I’ve done pretty well in my life in many ways, even economically with a successful TV evangelization program. I was brought up with the old-fashioned notion that if you have been blessed, you have a responsibility to give back. I would like you to accept this check for your church as a celebration of my love for Father Jim Cooney.”
He handed me a check for $5,000. It goes without saying that five minutes after he left I called Jim Cooney to tell him the good Reverend had put his wallet where his praise had been. I also remembered teasing Jim that knowing how good he was and what a great priest he has been, I wouldn’t be surprised if I kept getting donations like that every week.
God bless you, Jim. Keep us all in your living gaze.[hr] Father James Sweeney lives at Holy Name of Jesus rectory, Windsor Terrace.