This morning members of the Gonzaga and Spokane community gathered together in St. Aloysius Church for the Mass of Christian Burial of Fr. Bernard “Barney” Coughlin, S.J., former president and chancellor of Gonzaga, who died on Jan. 28 at the age of 97.
The church was filled with family members, community members and all those who Coughlin impacted during his life.
“He was a 97-year member of the Coughlin family – that’s a long time and welcome to the extended family here,” said Steve Kuder, S.J., who led the service with the Rev. Tom Lamanna S.J. “He was a 42-year member of Gonzaga. So, welcome to faculty, staff and board members. And a 77-year member of the Jesuit family – welcome guys.”
A theme that recurred throughout the service was how Coughlin blessed the world around him in everything he did.
“He knew God’s blessings even in hard times,” Kuder said. “When he first started at Gonzaga as president the university was in a big financial crisis which is one of many. Watching Barney he seemed to embody St. Ignatius’ great advice: let’s do the doable, let’s do the doable.”
Coughlin was best known for serving as the president of GU for 22 years and then spending another 20 as chancellor. All the speakers at the service touched on the impact Coughlin had on not only GU but every person he interacted with.
Between speeches the GU Concert Choir performed many pieces. One of which was called “The Lord is My Light.” One of the lyrics read “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; hope in him, and take heart. Hope in the Lord!"
This idea was touched on as well in GU President Thayne McCulloh’s speech.
“He signed off everything with ‘God bless you. God love you,’” McCulloh said. “What was striking about this for me is that in these two phrases contained three core messages. He had an unshakable belief not only in the existence of God but in the Christian message and heart of the gospel. He believed that God loved us and God loved us all."
“He was not only supremely confident in this belief he knew this belief to be fact. This unwavering confidence in God’s will was a force that vibrated strongly within him. It was the source of his strength in good times and in times of deep sadness and times of stress," McCulloh said. "His faith was his superpower. Another core message in ‘God bless you. God love you,’ was that he was saying ‘You matter. Your life has meaning. You are worthwhile. You matter to God and you matter to me.’ When Barney said ‘God love you,’ he also meant ‘I love you.’”
Mike Coughlin, Barney’s nephew, spoke about the love Barney had for his family.
“There are many things to remember about Barney,” Mike said. “The fun we had with him, his gentle nature, his quality sense of person and friend and about how he loved people and seemed to embody all that is good in human nature, how hard he worked and all he has accomplished, his devotion to God and how he inspired us. I can say for myself and I’m sure many of you here would agree that Barney was one of the most wonderful gifts we received in this life. That he is part of who we are, who we are trying to be and who we want to be.”
Barney loved everyone he interacted with and that love was reiterated by all those who spoke at the service.
“To you Fr. Coughlin we say rest now, brother, friend, minister, mentor, your work here has ended but the gift that is your legacy lives on,” McCulloh said.
He left his mark, not only on GU, but on every single person he met through his love and faith.
“When God made Barney I bet you he didn’t do anything else that day except just sit around and feel good, yes just feel good, just feel good,” Kuder said.