Family and friends assemble for funeral of much-loved priest
Forty-five years to the day after they had joined in the happiness of the then newly-ordained priest's first Mass and blessing, his family, neighbours and friends in the parish of Monageer assembled once more to receive the mortal remains of their native son.
The local church of St. Patrick in Monageer, where he was baptised, made his first Holy Communion and received the Sacrament of Confirmation, was packed to overflowing as the friends and neighbours of a lifetime gathered to pay their final respects to Monsignor Morgan Rowsome who had died some days earlier in San Antonio, Texas.
Among those waiting and grieving with the Rowsome family was Bishop Denis Brennan, a class-mate of the late Fr. Morgan and a life-long friend. The Tomsollagh native died in San Antonio on Friday, May 22. He was 72 years of age.
Born on 5 May 1943, he was the eldest of the family of six of the late Pierce and Ita Rowsome, Tomsollagh, Ferns. He entered St. Peter's College Seminary, Wexford, in 1964 and was ordained along with his class-mate (now Bishop) Denis Brennan in the College on Sunday, 31 May 1970, by Bishop Donal Herlihy.
Because of the constraints placed upon his health by a serious childhood illness, he chose to serve as a priest in Corpus Christi Diocese in Texas and after many important appointments in that Diocese he became Pastor (Parish Priest) of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Parish in 1994. He was honoured with the Vatican title of Monsignor in 2007.
Fr, Morgan had formally retired in 2013 and was living in San Antonio, where his sister Katherine lives, when his untimely death occurred. He was actually due home at the time to celebrate the 45th anniversary of his ordination.
Speaking at his funeral mass in Monageer last Monday, Bishop Denis Brennan delivered a deeply personal eulogy for his colleague, friend and classmate from St. Peter's College 45 years ago.
'Forty five years ago nine young men were ordained in St Peter's College.. we had been preparing for that day for six years, and now surrounded by family and friends we were ready to stretch our wings.
'Since then many tides have ebbed and flowed but time has not dimmed the memory of that day. That tide took our class to different places, Belfast, Scotland, England, Florida, Ecuador, Ferns and it took Morgan to the Gulf of Mexico.
'It was a happy choice for Morgan, and for the people he served over the past 45 years. Over that time his life and ministry has been a grace and a blessing for the Diocese of Corpus Christi. Morgan was wrapped up in his priesthood, it was everything to him. Even though he was dogged by health issues he always gave himself wholeheartedly to his ministry and his people.
'He was hard working, committed and enthusiastic. He was happy in his skin, he loved being a priest.'
Bishop Denis said that on a human level it was a sad day for the Rowsome family.
'For the past 60 years Morgan has been a familiar and reassuring figure in their midst, part of the family circle, always available and supportive.
'Those of us who knew him as a friend and colleague will share in that sadness, at moments such as this we realise in an unmistakable way that we have not here a lasting city, and that the years are never enough,' said the bishop.
'He used to say "we have the best job in the world, all we have to do is be nice to people" and "nobody ever left the Church through kindness".' 'Some years ago I did a summer supply for him in the parish he founded in Larado, San Martin DePorres, and I saw first hand the work he did and the affection and respect the people there had for him.'
Bishop Denis said the presence of Bishop Edmond Carmody from the Diocese of Corpus Christi was further testament to the regard in which he was held.
'Even though he lived in Texas for the past 45 years, Morgan never lost touch with home. He loved coming back each summer, loved going to the matches.. he also kept very much in touch with his family, and readily made himself available for family events and gatherings. He also stayed in touch with the St Peter's family, and was always a familiar face at our Reunions, being present only a few weeks ago at our last gathering in New Orleans.
'He had an infectious sense of humour and a great ability to retain and retell funny stories,' said Bishop Denis.
'Since he retired two years ago Morgan took up the pen. His first book was called 'Jokes that make you Laugh Louder and Live Longer.' His second book was called 'Hands' and describes the people, beginning with his family, who inspired him, and enriched his life in so many ways.
'His third book is very appropriately called 'From Tomsollagh to Texas' and is I believe almost ready to print. I think that was his business in Corpus Christi on the day he died.'
Concluding, Bishop Denis said that an old funeral line captured the conflicting emotions of those who loved and now mourned Morgan: 'You may cry that I have died, or smile that I have lived'.
'For those of us who knew Morgan practically all our lives,' the bishop said, 'this is not a difficult choice to make - the smile wins hands down.'
Monsignor Rowsome is survived by three brothers, Michael (Tomsollagh), Billy (Enniscorthy) and Declan (New Ross) and two sisters, Katherine (Texas) and Sr. Mary (a member of the Mercy Order, Wexford), nephews and nieces and a wide circle of other family members, neighbours, brother priests and friends.