A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Death of a Marist

Fr Brian Cummings SM

Born: 27 October 1953, Petone, Wellington

Professed: 4 January 1974

Ordained: 23 June 1979

Died: 19 August 2022

Brian Gerard Cummings was a proud son of Petone, the working class suburb at the mouth of the Hutt Valley, Wellington. He would often defend Petone, and its Rugby club from detractors, likening it to heaven. As a boy, he attended his local convent school and then took the train and bus to St Patrick’s College, Cambridge Terrace. He was  a good student  there and a competent cricketer and made the 1st XI as wicketkeeper. His foray into rugby coaching as a 7th former was less successful, establishing a new record for the largest defeat! He would improve his skills in this area later in life.

After school, he felt the call to a vocation and so went to the Marist Seminary at Greenmeadows. 

After ordination, he was appointed to St Bede’s College, where he taught and soon gained a reputation as an excellent teacher and sports coach, eventually coaching the 1st XI. In a short time, he had become the Head of English, the Dean of Borders and then Assistant Rector..

In 1988 he was then appointed to St Patrick’s Silverstream where he was also the Assistant Rector and undertook boarding duties. However, after a short stint there, he was appointed as Rector back at St Bede’s College, where he served from 1990 to 2001.

After finishing his time at St Bede’s, Brian had a short stint at St Mary of the Angels, before travelling to Guelph, Canada to undertake studies in spirituality. Upon his return to New Zealand, he was stepped in as Rector at Marist Seminary in Auckland. 

Brian was elected to the Provincial Council and became the Vice Provincial in 2005, and then was elected as Provincial in 2008. He performed his duties with his normal administrative competence, with well-formulated plans of action, and was always well-prepared for meetings. He was considered an excellent listener, and was sensitive to the mood of the room, which made him a sought-after facilitator.

The former Superior General, Fr John Hannan wrote of Brian, “I admired Brian as a Provincial leader. He was clear in his understanding of his role, and indeed acquainted himself on the scope and limits of the Superior General’s role! 

I liked his leadership style. He knew his own mind, was astute but was above all collaborative and eager to reach a consensus. 

He liked clarity in thought and good order. His administrative competence and organisational capacities would have made him a much-wanted person on any leadership team.”

Following his term as Provincial he plunged with enthusiasm into his spirituality ministry, based at Pā Maria in Wellington. His insight and wisdom as a spiritual director were greatly valued, and his courses which used films to help people pray and reflect upon the contemporary world were very popular and fully subscribed.

Brian was a skilled communicator, a voracious reader, and a keen movie buff. He loved sports, and before some health problems slowed him up, was a very good golfer. He did struggle to watch the All Blacks live, in case they didn’t play up to the standards that Brian expected of them. 

Brian was diagnosed with an aggressive and terminal cancer after Holy Week. He retained his strong faith and calmly accepted his imminent death. He had a sharp wit, and even while dying, active conversation, humour, intrigue, irony, juxtaposition and the gracious host were still to the fore.

When asked how it was that he had been so peaceful in these last weeks of his life, he replied “I always considered Petone the promised land, so I’m just going home!”

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