​Jim Stynes' coffin lying in St Paul's Cathedral

Life for Jim Stynes was more than an accident of history and this helped him to be the person he was, the Acting Dean of Melbourne, the Revd Canon Dr Ray Cleary, told thousands of people attending and watching the State Funeral of the crusader for youth and former champion AFL footballer at St Paul's Cathedral on 27 March.

Dr Cleary told more than 1000 people in the cathedral, and many thousands more watching the funeral in Federation Square and beyond, that they had gathered not only to give thanks for Mr Stynes' life, but also come to grieve and mourn.

"We grieve because we are human and because we are aware that we have lost something of ourselves," he said. "But we also hope that Jim’s accomplishments and contribution to enriching the lives of others will continue."
Mr Stynes died on 20 March, aged 45, after a three-year public struggle with cancer. As a teenager, he came from his homeland Ireland to play Australian football, winning the Australian Football League's highest individual honour, the Brownlow Medal, in 1991 and playing a league record 244 consecutive games for the Melbourne Football Club - a club he led as President from 2008, when its future was in doubt, until a few weeks before his death.

His place in public affection was further cemented by his engagement with young people as co-founder of the Reach Foundation and other charitable works.

Dr Cleary said how people lived life was important in how they saw death.
"The search for meaning and purpose in life and how we address the journey will greatly influence how we respond to death, not only the death of others but also our mortality. If we see human existence as an accident of history, or the survival of the fittest, death is the end, the finality of who we are. If we view life as a gift, the gift of a creator God, even if we still are exploring our relationship with the divine, then how we view life takes on a greater and more profound understanding.
"Jim Stynes, by the way he lived, knew that there was more to life than self and the present. In his life, he fostered hope for others, not out of some charitable or feel-good notion but out of a deeper and more profound knowledge and consciousness of the many gifts and talents he had been given which he could use to benefit others and to support their future. For Jim Stynes, life was more than an accident of history, and this I believe helped him be the person he was."

Dr Cleary said all were both challenged and called to continue Mr Stynes' work in how they lived our own lives in relation to those whom they loved and were closest to, as well as the stranger, the sojourner and those in need.
"Jim achieved in his life what many of us aspire to over many more years of life," he said.
"We have already heard this morning tributes that reflect the many attributes of Jim’s life. He embraced and encouraged people from all walks of life. His charm, skills, determination, compassion and understanding of life’s challenges went far beyond the football field and often at some cost to those he most loved. His personal relationships and his vision of what could be were the overriding hallmarks of his life. Even for a passionate and ever hopeful Richmond supporter such as I, Jim Stynes could not be ignored.
"Jim Stynes to many was a hero, mentor, soulmate and confidante.
"Some have awarded him celebrity status, a description I think he would have felt uncomfortable with and would not have wanted. Such status was not important to him. What Jim did was what he believed and understood to be the core or essence of being human -- a person with a deep respect and concern for the other, whether it be a young person experiencing difficulties, a young recruit homesick or over awed by their new surroundings, a friend in need or as husband and father.
"This does not suggest that Jim was without fault. He was human as we all are, yet as he journeyed through life he focused on the positive, and saw the good and potential of what life could offer."

Dr Cleary said Christians believed that from love humans were created and to love they would return. This was not "some sentimental, wishy-washy love, or self-love, not even romantic love, but a much greater truth that embraces compassion, resilience, justice, mercy, forgiveness, and our own personal fulfilment and redemption".
"Love, then, is at the centre of what it means to be human a love that extends to all," he said.
Dr Cleary said the approach of Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Day in the Christian calendar recalled the central tenets of the faith, "that in grief, pain, abandonment and the suffering of a young man, who gave his life for others, there is the promise of hope".

"The resurrection of Jesus is God’s way of saying be courageous, go forward, fulfil the vision of justice for all, love one another and walk with me to build a community where all God’s people are cared for and loved. While Jim journeyed, unsure of belief, he lived this message.
"As we gather the greatest gift by which we can remember Jim is not by a monument or stature, but by doing best what he did for others."

Dr Cleary concluded with a prayer by 17th Century poet John Donne.
Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven: to enter into the gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling light, no noise or silence, but one equal possession; no ends or beginnings, but one equal eternity, in the habitations of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.
"As we gather to celebrate a fruitful life, may we hear, listen and respond to the call and promise of God for ourselves," Dr Cleary said.

Mr Stynes' widow, Samantha, his brother Brian, former Melbourne captain Garry Lyon and Reach Foundation colleague Paul Currie were the eulogists.

Melbourne's Anglican Archbishop, Dr Philip Freier, pronounced the Committal and gave the Blessing.
Other clergy participating in the service were the Acting Precentor of St Paul's, the Revd Dr Ruth Redpath, and the Revds James Brady and Jerome Dias from the Cathedral clergy. The Chaplain to the Past Players and Past Officials of the Melbourne Football Club, Baptist pastor the Revd Paul Burnham, and Roman Catholic priest Fr Joe Caddy, with whose family Mr Stynes lived when he arrived in Australia almost 30 years ago, also participated in the service.
In an online article published on the Eureka Street website on the morning of the funeral, Fr Caddy wrote that Mr Stynes' mother Teresa had called him to her son's bedside three days before he died, where the priest led the family in prayers and administered the sacrament of the sick.

Fr Caddy, who officiated at Jim and Samantha Stynes' 2001 wedding and is now the Chief Executive Officer of CatholicCare, wrote that Mr Stynes was not only a man of steel, he was also a man of flesh and blood.
"So moved was he by the plight of young people drifting, lost and without direction that he started the Reach Foundation to support young people and help them to realise their dreams and potential," he wrote.
"He loved his family deeply and in spite of a very busy life was always fully present to them and their needs. And for their part they were always there for him, showering him with the love and blessings he needed to sustain himself in the good times and in the times of struggle.
"Finally he suffered through his disease and was on record saying that this suffering actually helped him to empathise with others who were suffering in their own various ways."

Barney Zwartz reported in The Age newspaper on the morning of the funeral that there had been conjecture that the reason the Catholic-raised Mr Stynes' funeral was at St Paul's rather than St Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral was that the guidelines for Catholic funeral services, published 18 months ago, forbade scarves, football songs or personal eulogies in favour of liturgical readings and music.

"In fact, the Stynes family never approached the Catholic Church," the report said, adding that it was the express desire of Mr Stynes, who helped plan the funeral with his wife, that it should be an ecumenical service.

The Age quoted Melbourne's Roman Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart as confirming that his church had not been approached to conduct the funeral.

''He was prayed for at all the Masses at the cathedral yesterday. He was a fine young man,'' Archbishop Hart told the paper.



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