The Rev. Stephen Rooney left Ireland to come to America to help others, serving in parishes across the Archdiocese of Detroit for three decades.
On Wednesday, hundreds of mourners – including friends, parishioners and more than 50 clergy –
came to pay their final respects to Father Rooney,
whose life of service was cut short in a boating accident.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way, was it?” said Rev. Marc
Gawronski, his voice cracking during the homily at St. Frances
Cabrini in Allen Park. The funeral Mass was celebrated there to accommodate the large crowd gathering to say goodbye.
Rooney, 66, who most recently was assigned to St. Joseph in Trenton, died when a boat he was riding in capsized Aug. 16 in the Detroit River just off the eastern shore of Grosse Ile near Stoney Island. His body was recovered four days later.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron, bishops and priests from the area filed into the church. The celebration shed light on Rooney’s lifetime mission of spreading the word of the Catholic Church.
More: Trenton priest was helping a father through grief when boat capsized
More: Witnesses reveal frantic moments after Detroit River boat tragedy
Flowers and pictures decorated the vestibule of the church.
Gawronski, pastor of
both Sacred Heart Parish in Grosse Ile and St. Cyprian Parish in Riverview,
gave the homily.
“Stephen Rooney was supposed to preach at my funeral,” he said.
“That voice – his beautiful way with words … could comfort us with wisdom or confide us with challenge.
“(Rooney) was in a relentless pursuit of our souls and had us taking a good look at (ourselves). For so many of us, he changed our lives.”
served as a monk before becoming ordained as a priest.
He began his first assignment in the Archdiocese of Detroit as associate pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Warren in 1987.
He also served as associate pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Dearborn in
1989-90; associate pastor of St. Patrick Parish in White Lake Township in
1994-95; pastor of St. Michael Parish in Monroe in
1995-2008; pastor of Our Lady of Mount
Carmel Parish in Temperance in 2008-13; pastor of Our Lady on the River Parish in Marine City in
2013-18, followed by his most recent assignment in Trenton.
Rooney loved to walk, Gawronski said. He was proud of his time walking Camino de Santiago in northern Spain and walked 4 miles daily in Trenton’s Elizabeth Park.
“He would not want us to stop crossing the bridge,” Gawronski said.
The live-stream of Rooney’s funeral was viewed by those in Ireland and Britain and was overloaded by more than 5,000 viewers at one point.
Gawronski said that Rooney would be confused with “all of the fuss” over his death, but he shouldn’t be: “The fuss is because you truly impacted our lives,” he said. “He completed his crossing in, of all places, a river.”