We Buried a Priest Yesterday

Monsignor Don was more than a priest to me.  Apparently he was more than a priest to a lot of people.  The church was packed.  No one speaks ill of the dead (at least not often) so it wasn’t surprising to hear so many accolades for a man whose life was too short.  But the large number of people, priests, deacons, and lay, spoke volumes about this quiet man’s life.

He made such a big difference in my life that I had to be there.  First, he was my wife’s cousin.  They had been friends for life.  When I decided I wanted to marry his cousin, my late mother-in-law to be insisted that there was no way her daughter was going to marry a non-Catholic.  She called on Monsignor Don, who was then an associate pastor, to “fix” me.  Time was short, but the young priest was up to the task.

In a single week I was baptized, made my first confession, my first communion, and was married.  Father joked that I had received five of the seven sacraments.  In those days, just after Vatican II, and before the restoration of the permanent diaconate, he said that it would be a long time before I received “last rites” and, of course, I’d never receive Holy Orders.

As the years passed, “last rites” became anointing of the sick, a sacrament I’ve received many times and when I received Holy Orders in 2002, Monsignor Don was there.

When my mother-in-law passed away in 2009, I had one of the greatest honors of my diaconate, I served mass with the Monsignor in the church where he married Jan and me.  I had no idea that I would never have the opportunity to serve him again.

I think every one of us who has been called to serve the Church would be proud to say that we try to be as good a minister as this man.  He was quiet.  He was humble.  He made everyone feel as if they were the most important person in his life.  Hence the huge crowd for his funeral.   Being a very organized person, he left specific instructions for his funeral.  First and foremost he wrote, “no eulogies!”  When dozens of priests show up for a funeral and hundreds of people fill the church, I suppose no eulogy is necessary.

But this a blog, so I don’t think he’ll mind if I say he was one of the greatest priests I’ve ever known.

In his last visit with his bishop, he asked the bishop to pray that he died before Christmas.  He said he had spent every Advent of his life preparing for Christ to come.  This year he was spending Advent preparing to go to Christ.  He died on December 22.

Rest in peace, Monsignor Don.

One Response

  1. Thank you for mentioning Monsignor. Like I said, he was the gold Standard for a priest: Easy to talk to (pastoral), a good administrator,
    a really good liturgist, and proud of his appointment of chaplain to His
    Holiness. I remember he went out and got a new cassock right away.
    I was glad for that. Back then a lot of priests were a little embarrassed
    at the honor, and you know that Monsignor did not like calling attention to himself. We used to have a music offering called “Journey to Calvary” and we asked him to speak some reflections after each station. We did not expect much. We were surprised at how much
    work and thought he put into it and made the reflection match the words of the next piece of music. I am sorry he is gone. Not only was he a good priest, but a good friend I could talk to.

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