Former Glenstal Abbey head, Abbot Celestine Cullen OSB, dies

91-year-old ‘shaped and defined Glenstal Abbey School’ into successful institution

The death has occurred of Abbot Celestine Cullen OSB, who in the course of his life made an outstanding contribution to the Benedictine order and to Glenstal Abbey School in Murroe, Co Limerick. He was 91.

Current abbot Brendan Coffey OSB led tributes to the monk.

“Abbot Celestine was born the year Glenstal Abbey was founded, 1927. His presence in our young and growing community was key to its success. As headmaster he shaped and defined Glenstal Abbey School into the successful educational institution it is today.”

"As abbot of Glenstal and abbot president of our monastic congregation he was a major spiritual influence on monks and nuns throughout the world. He was a trusted friend, counsellor and guide to many in Ireland and beyond and will be very greatly missed by us all," he added.


He was “now at rest in the presence of the God he loved so much and to whom he gave his live with such generosity and courage”.

Brian Cullen attended Glenstal Priory School from 1939 to 1945. He began studying medicine at UCD, but after one year decided to enter the Glenstal community, taking the monastic name of Celestine.

Following studies in Dublin and Rome he was ordained in 1954. Fr Celestine taught French and religion in the school, and in 1961 was appointed headmaster; a post he held until 1979.

He was elected the third Abbot of Glenstal in December 1980. In 1992, the General Chapter of the Benedictine Congregation of the Annunciation, meeting in Trier, Germany, elected him abbot president. He held this post until 2004. During these years he visited every community of the geographically far-flung congregation – from California to India.

Throughout his life he had an active ministry preaching retreats to many monastic and other communities all over the world. Of particular interest was his pastoral care of a group of parents of former students of the school and their friends for whom he preached an annual retreat and led several pilgrimages, notably to Rome.

In retirement at Glenstal, a series of debilitating illnesses restricted his activities and he spent the last years at Millbrae Lodge Nursing Home in nearby Newport.

His remains are reposing in the monastery reception from 3.30pm on Friday before removal to the abbey church at 5.00pm, followed by vespers for the dead. His funeral Mass on Saturday is at 12.10pm with burial afterwards in the abbey cemetery.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times