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On Tuesday, 3rd June 2008, the funeral of Fr Andrew Cloonan was celebrated at the Church of St Thomas of Canterbury, Woodford Green, Essex.  Fr Andrew was 90 years old.  He was born on 15th August 1917 at Forest Gate, East London, and nearly all his life was spent there.  He was baptised Kevin in St Antony's Franciscan church there, went to St Antony's Primary School there, then on to St Bonaventure's School, and in 1935 entered the Franciscan novitiate at Chilworth, was professed on 12th September 1936, came to Woodford to study philosophy, and then returned to Forest Gate to study theology in 1939.  In 1940 all the Franciscan students were evacuated from London to the Franciscan College at Buckingham to escape the Blitz.  Fr Andrew was ordained a priest at Cambridge in 1943, where he stayed on to take a degree in history.  He then studied French at Birkbeck College and entered on his life-work of teaching R.E. and French at St Bonaventure's, Forest Gate.  When in 1884 the friars had founded the parish at Forest Gate from their friary at Stratford, they first established there the school which they had begun at Stratford, so that it represents the very beginning of the Forest Gate parish, the foundation of the community in understanding the faith.  Fr Andrew's teaching career only came to end in 1970 when he was appointed the Commissary of the Holy Land, another very Franciscan work.  In 1975 he was appointed to the Franciscan community in Bristol  where he remained until the friars gave up that parish and closed the Friary in 1980.  He then returned to Forest Gate where he helped on the parish until the final blow when the friars left that house also in 2002, and he was transferred to Woodford, where he died on 25th May 2008.  His funeral was a celebration of a life largely spent in studying, teaching and living at Forest Gate, as witnessed by the many Forest Gate parishioners and clergy who attended.  The Bishop of Brentwood was represented by Msgr John Armitage, the first diocesan parish priest of St Antony's, Forest Gate, when the friars left.


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