It was with great sadness and shock that the Archdiocese of Glasgow heard of the death of Fr. Sabatino, the parish priest of St. Benedict’s, Drumchapel. Despite his ongoing bouts of ill-health, the end had come suddenly. Recognising the great affection and esteem in which he was held, the decision was taken to hold his funeral services at the larger church of St. Eunan’s, Clydebank, to accommodate the crowds expected to attend – a wise decision as the church was full to overflowing for both the Vigil and the Funeral Mass, with parishioners coming from the many parishes that Fr. Sabatino had ministered in.
Fr. Sabatino’s body was taken on 18 April first to his parish church to allow his parishioners to bid him farewell before it was taken to St. Eunan’s. As the cortege left the church, people lined the street in a demonstration of love and respect. At St. Eunan’s, the Dean (Canon Gerard Tartaglia) and clergy of the North West Deanery brought Fr. Sabatino into the church as the congregation sang “Be Thou my Vision”.
After the readings and psalm, Canon Bradburn, a close friend of Fr. Sabatino, gave the reflection. He recalled Fr. Sabatino as a warm and dedicated priest whose principal desire was to show pastoral charity for his parishioners and who was in return much loved by them. During his final illness, many of them came to the hospital just to hold his hands and pray with him. He was also a great support for his fellow priests, always ready to lend a listening ear and offer advice.
Archbishop Conti presided at the Funeral Mass and was joined by a large number of priests from across the Diocese. Members of the St. Mungo Singers led the music of the liturgy. In his homily, Archbishop Conti expressed his sense of privilege in presiding at Fr. Sabatino’s funeral, particularly as he had been a contemporary of his at Blairs College.
Fr. Sabatino had been a Clydebank boy who had received his early schooling there before going to Blairs. After ordination, his first parishes had been in Govan and he had been chaplain at the Southern General for 12 years. His first appointment as parish priest had been to Holy Cross, Croy, and he had served in many parishes throughout the Diocese before his final appointment to St. Benedict’s.
Archbishop Conti remembered him as a devoted pastor who had turned down the suggestion that he become a monsignor because it might be seen to distance him from his parishioners. He was also very close to his extended family. Referring to the gospel passage (the raising of Lazarus) which had been specially chosen for his family, the Archbishop said that the promise made by the Lord to Mary still holds true. Fr. Sabatino had worked for the vision of a new heaven and earth. The words of the psalm (Ps. 42) were very appropriate for him as he had thirsted to see God, and those words were being fulfilled for him now.
After the Mass, the congregation gathered outside as the funeral cortege left for the burial, and Fr. Sabatino would perhaps have had a wry smile at the sight of a police patrol car with flashing lights leading the hearse and cars. A fitting farewell to a priest universally remembered as “a lovely man”.