Derry priest said Mass 22,000 times

Reverend Bernard John Canon Canning. (Picture by Ivor Doherty).
Reverend Bernard John Canon Canning. (Picture by Ivor Doherty).

A Derry born priest who has just celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of his ministry, has recalled the touching moment when he leaned into the coffin and kissed the forehead of Bishop Neil Farren.

Speaking at a special Mass to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of his ordination to the Diocese of Paisley, Reverend Bernard Canning, who was born in Nelson Street, said that in six decades of priesthood he has celebrated Mass more than 22,000 times.

Father Canning was ordained in 1956, the year when Fidel Castro landed in Cuba at the start of the Cuban revolution, and the year the movie ‘The Ten Commandments’ premiered in the US. He went on to minister in parishes in Paisley and in 2001 was appointed as a Full Canon of the Chapter by Bishop John Mone. He retired to St Ninian’s, Gourcok in 2009 and continues to research and write.

Among his many publications are ‘The Street That Is Gone, But Lives On,’(about Nelson Street), ‘Derry City Cemetery, 1853-2003’ and ‘Bishop Neil Farren 1883-1980.’

In his homily at his Jubilee Mass Reverend Canning revealed how he prays for Bishop Neil Farren every night and maintained a link with him until his dying day in 1980.

“Bishop Daly, his successor, and I were standing at his coffin and before closing it,” he said. “Bishop Daly kissed his forehead and I did the same, the last person to do so as the coffin was sealed.”

He said he was recently asked how many Masses he has offered as a priest.

“A priest is permitted to offer Mass every day with one or two days in the year excepted in Holy Week,” he said.

“In those 60 years I availed myself as the average priest does and offered Mass 22,000 times plus. What a privilege it was. I thank God for it. I hope to keep going until the end of life.”

Right Rev Monsignor Joseph Donnelly, PP VF celebrated Mass in Omagh this week to mark the Golden Anniversary of his ordination and Father John Ryder, P.Em also celebrates the Diamond Anniversary of his ordination this month