The Diocese of St. Petersburg is remembering the legacy of Monsignor George W. Cummings who passed away in the Lord on August 8, 2020 at the Sturgill Hospice House in Brooksville at the age of 102. He was a retired priest of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and Pastor Emeritus of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Citrus Springs. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace!
He was ordained a priest on November 27, 1943 for the Diocese of St. Augustine, which covered the entire state of Florida at the time. During his early years, he taught Latin and religion at St. James Cathedral School in Orlando and helped found Archbishop Curley Catholic High School in Miami. He served 20 years in Venice at Epiphany Parish, now named Epiphany Cathedral. In addition to his degree in Theology, the young Father Cummings earned a Master of Science degree in Biology from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., in 1946.
He led many young people to Christ through his educational and pastoral ministry and he even served as Youth Ministry Director for the Diocese of St. Augustine. He wanted young people to have a place they could go in the summer to continue their formation and to develop friendships. In 1947, he founded Our Lady of Good Counsel Camp, in Floral City, where he served as Director for over 37 years.
After the Diocese of St. Augustine was divided into multiple dioceses in 1968, Monsignor Cummings became a priest of the newly-established Diocese of St. Petersburg. In 1976, Bishop Charles McLaughlin entrusted Monsignor Cummings with the leadership of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Citrus Springs, where he oversaw significant growth at the new parish during his fifteen years as pastor until his retirement in 1991. Since then, he had maintained his residence in Citrus County, providing wise counsel to many younger priests and giving generously of his time and resources for the ongoing ministry to our youth at Good Counsel Camp. When he was no longer able to care for himself, he moved to Brentwood Retirement Community, in Lecanto, where he was frequently visited by loyal friends and family members.
When Father Carl Melchior of the Diocese of St. Petersburg was still a seminarian, he interned at Good Counsel Camp. One day he asked Monsignor Cummings when he had decided to become a priest. Without skipping a beat, Monsignor Cummings said “this morning.” With equal parts wit and sincerity, he said, “every day I wake up and I recommit myself to serving as a priest.”
During his 76 years of priestly ministry, Monsignor Cummings served under seven popes and seven bishops and had witnessed the exponential growth of the Catholic Church in Florida from one diocese to its current seven. At the request of Archbishop Joseph Hurley, he was given the ecclesiastical honor of Domestic Prelate (now Honorary Prelate) by Pope John XXIII in 1959. In 2002, Monsignor Cummings received the Fr. Luis Distinguished Priestly Service Award, which is given annually to a priest serving in the Diocese of St. Petersburg who best exemplifies selfless and dedicated service to the people of God.
On June 21, 2018, the retired priest gathered with 150 of his closest friends, brother priests and Bishop Gregory Parkes to celebrate his 100th birthday. He celebrated in a way befitting this humble centenarian, with the celebration of Mass, laughter and of course, cake. Not just one, but three cakes. One was designed to look like a jeep since he had survived a jeep accident and was even trapped underneath it. The festivities included the presentation of a papal blessing from Pope Francis.
Monsignor Cummings is survived by five nephews, one niece, many grand-nephews and grand-nieces, in addition to a multitude of friends, former counselors and campers at Our Lady of Good Counsel Camp and fellow priests. He was preceded in death by his parents, as well as his brother, Robert Cummings and two sisters, Joan Farrell and Gloria Crahan.
Click here to listen to an interview with Monsignor Cummings.
Click here to view photos of Monsignor Cummings from throughout his years of ministry.
All funeral services will be held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, 5815 5th Avenue N., St. Petersburg, and will be as follows:
Visitation: Wednesday, August 12, 2020, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Evening Prayer will be offered at 7:00 p.m.
Funeral Mass: Thursday, August 13, 2020, 10:00 a.m., Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch will be the Main Celebrant, with Very Reverend James B. Johnson as Homilist.
Burial will immediately follow at Calvary Catholic Cemetery, 5233 118th Avenue N., Clearwater.
A Memorial Mass will be held at St. Scholastica Catholic Church, Lecanto, at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in memory of Monsignor Cummings to: Our Lady of Good Counsel Camp, c/o St. Scholastica Catholic Church, 4301 Homosassa Trail, Lecanto, FL 34461.
Expressions of sympathy may be sent to the family of Msgr. George W. Cummings, c/o Diocese of St. Petersburg, Office of the Chancellor, P.O. Box 40200, St. Petersburg, FL 33743-0200.