A catholic priest who died after falling from a ladder while dusting in church is to be buried amongst his flock.
Colleagues say Fr John Cribben, 76, had become so attached to his parish in the Preston area that he recently had a change of heart about a funeral back home in Ireland.
“He will be buried in the church grounds – that is what he wanted,” revealed Rural Dean Monsignor John Corcoran, who will officiate at the funeral at Our Lady and St Patrick’s RC Church, in Walton-le-Dale, on Thursday and Friday.
“He was going to be buried in Ireland, that was always his intention when his time came. But he had told a number of parishioners and some priest friends recently that, after almost 18 years in the parish, he had changed his mind.
“He felt he should really stay with his people. His family back in Ireland have been contacted. And when they heard how much his parishioners wanted him to stay here, they generously agreed he should be buried where he felt so much at home.”
Fr Cribben was found dead on the floor of his church one morning. It is believed his body could have been there overnight after tumbling 35-feet from a ladder as he cleaned dust from the architrave, above a high arch, the previous afternoon.
Parishioners say the “larger than life” priest had been doing his own cleaning to save the church money.
“He felt he could manage, even though he was nearly 77,” said one. “There was no telling him otherwise. He said as long as he felt fit and able he would continue. He was the same about retiring.
“He had no intention of leaving as long as he felt he could do the job.”
Police were called to the church after a parishioner found Fr Cribben’s body at around 9.30am. They said there were no suspicious circumstances. A file has been passed to the coroner.
Health and safety experts at South Ribble Council have launched an investigation.
The congregation at Our Lady and St Patrick’s, and also at its sister church, St Mary and St John Southworth in Samlesbury, are said to be “totally devastated” by the death of a “much-loved” priest.
Fr Cribben’s funeral will be begin on Thursday when his body is received into church at 7.30pm and Mgr Corcoran will celebrate requiem mass.
On Friday at 1pm a funeral mass will be said by the new Bishop of Salford, the Rt Rev John Arnold, followed by interment in the churchyard.