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The Profession Cross of Dr David Kennedy SM

Fr Phil Cody sm

Fr Philip Cody sm

On Wednesday 26 February 2014, David Wheeler returned the Profession Cross of his great uncle, Dr David Kennedy SM, to the Society of Mary in a meeting with Fr Phil Cody SM. As David said, “I want this Cross to go home before I die”.

David Hunter Galway Wheeler is the sole son of Claude Joseph Wheeler and Dorothy Mary Wheeler, née Delahunt. Dorothy’s parents were Frank Delahunt and Ann Delahunt, née Kennedy. David Wheeler’s grandmother [Ann Kennedy] was the sister of Donald and David Kennedy. David was to become Doctor (Father) David Kennedy of the Marist Priests and Brothers of the Society of Mary.

David Wheeler’s mother Dorothy, whose own mother Ann died when Dorothy was born, formed a close relationship with her uncle Fr David Kennedy, so much so that much of Fr David’s belongings came into her possession before and after his death.

Fr David Kennedy sm

Fr David Kennedy sm

These belongings included Fr David’s Profession Cross. So David Wheeler is able to say, “My mother and I have had Fr David’s Cross in our possession for as long as I can remember”.

In fact, David Wheeler’s memory of his great uncle was of “a black soutane and two black shoes”! David Wheeler was too young to remember him in person. He does recall his dying in 1936 and the black catafalque and candles when he died and his parents travelling to Wellington to Fr David’s funeral and later David remembered his Month’s Mind.

Even though David Wheeler’s parents ran a “Crossing Cash Store” in Napier at the corner of Sale? and Munro Streets and his father, Frank, used to go to the Mission Seminary to buy sherry, this was before Fr David was Rector there. Claude and Dorothy’s store was near the Railway crossing, hence its name. David Wheeler’s mother made pies to sell. It was in the Depression years and David can remember men with their coats done up with string, eating pies on the shop verandah and steam rising in the air.

It was also at the time of the 1931 Quake and David Wheeler can recall standing with his aunty (on his father’s side) in Gisborne watching the front of the local bank collapse into the street!

David Wheeler’s mother kept her uncle’s, Fr David, Cross on the wall in their home. Later, when his mother Dorothy became ill, David’s wife Mary cared for her and later held the Cross as a special part of the Catholic tradition of the family. David and Mary lived at 14 Charles Street, Westshore and had close links with the Seminary and were very involved in the formation of the students (including Fr Phil Cody SM).

David Wheeler tells of another interesting story about his great uncle’s possessions.

Mum had a lot of his stuff stored at our home in Napier; lots of his photographs and literally hundreds of the plates of the southern sky that he exposed through the 9-inch refractor that he used at Meeanee and the Mission before it was blown into the gully below the philosopher’s stone at the Mission.

A couple of years ago, I made a sort of a pilgrimage to look at his telescope that is now in the National [Carter] Observatory at Kelburn. I confessed to the chief astronomer there, who is a woman, that when I was a little boy and in need of a piece of glass I used to climb up onto the top of the wardrobe in my parents’ bedroom where all these plates were stored and help myself to all the nice pieces of glass that I wanted. I found that I could scrape off all the fly specks under hot water. The fly specks were, of course, records of the Milky Way or some part of the southern sky and enormously valuable. The woman at Kelburn listened to my story with her eyes getting wider and wider and when I finished she leaned right across the table between us and almost shouted, “Was that you?” Apparently, the story is quite well known. All the plates were catalogued and they knew which ones I had stolen.

David said there was no special devotion to Fr David’s Cross in his home. However, while his mother had not specifically given it to him, she did point out to him what it was and its significance. So he treasured it in memory of his mother. It has been in the family for over a hundred years.

“I do not have a lot of time left now”, David said. “I am returning my great uncle’s Profession Cross to a place and people who will understand its meaning and treasure it. I want it to go home before I die.”

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