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Priests memories go beyond parish

Posted By September 26, 2014 | 10:53 am | Featured Article #1, Featured Article #3
Father Robert E. Gariepy celebrates Mass in Southgate’s interdenominational chapel. In the foreground Father Philip D. McNamara concelebrates.
Father Robert E. Gariepy celebrates Mass in Southgate’s interdenominational chapel. In the foreground Father Philip D. McNamara concelebrates.

By Tanya Connor

SHREWSBURY – “I was there when the Israelis invaded. … I was reading a French newspaper. I looked up and there was a flatbed truck with an artillery piece.”
Father Philip D. McNamara is talking about stopping in Lebanon in 1982 on his way home from another assignment. He was there three months to help the director of Catholic Relief Services set up a program for Christian and Muslim refugees.
“I was plenty of places where I shouldn’t have been,” Father McNamara says.
Perhaps that’s what happens when you say “yes” to helping where you’re needed.
Father Robert E. Gariepy recalls celebrating eight Latin Masses a weekend in 1968, some in foxholes, some with ammunition boxes as altars. A military chaplain for 20 years, he served Catholics during the Vietnam War. After saying Mass for the Vietnamese, he was flown in a “bubble” – a two-seater helicopter – to the American troops.
But it’s not all “war stories” these retired priests were sharing over breakfast one recent morning. Father Gariepy, there with a duck-bill whistle around his neck,
proves that elders can have fun too.
celebrate-logo“At Christmastime he came to the children’s Mass,” Father McNamara says, launching into a story about Msgr. Richard E. Collette who was also at the table. “There’s a lot of commotion (in church). It turns out he’s carrying Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Anything to get the message across. The adults didn’t know what it was, but the kids did.”
Father McNamara lent the scrawny tree to his fellow priest for a Mass at St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough, where Msgr. Collette helps out.
Msgr. Collette says he talks to the children before Mass, to make them comfortable talking to him.
“I don’t want them to put the priest in the category of a statue,” he explains.
But these priests, with years of ministry – and adventure – under their collars, can seem larger than life. They’re not the retiring types, despite being among the Diocese’s retired priests living at Southgate at Shrewsbury. Father Gariepy says there are 13 of them here now – he, Father McNamara, Msgr. Collette and seven others are in the independent living section, and three others in assisted living.
Father McNamara’s original angle for this Catholic Free Press interview was on the theme of “volunteering.”
But after he and the others celebrated Mass in Southgate’s interdenominational chapel, they offered tidbits from their storerooms of memories over breakfast in one of the dining rooms. If you wanted the whole story, however, you had to go back for more.
For some stories, they reached back into their active ministry. Others were about here and now.
“I don’t think there’s any other diocese in the United States that takes such good care of its elder priests,” Father McNamara says. “And the loyalty – they never forget a priest,” referring also to parishioners who still come to take them out for meals.
Msgr. Collette agrees. They don’t have to worry about food.
Sister Mary Ann Bartell and Sister Mary Joseph Cross, Carmelite Sisters of the Eucharist, arrive about 5 a.m. to help the retired priests with a variety of needs. Eileen Fournier, a retired nurse in her 90s, also works with them.
“It’s called volunteering,” puts in Father McNamara.
Later he mentioned that the Clergy Benefit Plan ensures that “we get as good care as anybody else because some people have taken the time to look into those things” (like medical insurance plans).
Fellow-resident Mary Pfordresher stops by the table.
“They do a great job,” she says of the priests who live there. “I think they certainly add an awful lot.” She says she appreciates the Catholic atmosphere the priests provide; she’d wanted to live in a Catholic home. (Southgate isn’t officially Catholic, but perhaps resident priests, daily Mass and a Blessed Sacrament chapel with Stations of the Cross help make it seem so.)
Elaborating on his point that parishioners remember their priests, Father McNamara feigns disappointment that he’s not among beneficiaries. But Msgr. Collette is quick to dispel the notion.
“He had four birthday parties,” he says of Father McNamara. “He got all kinds of toys. He’ll come down for breakfast with a toy.”
“I’m going on 100,” claims the birthday boy, who turned 91 at the end of August.
Turning from birth to death, Msgr. Collette says, “We’ve done quite a few funerals” for people who lived here. He says he’s anointed four people on his floor in about a year’s time, and that when someone is sick, you also need to minister to their families.
Father Gariepy says he himself celebrates a monthly Mass at Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center at Worcester.
Father McNamara says his eye problems make reading the missal too difficult for him to be the main celebrant at Masses. But he says he often follows the readings on his iPad – “the newest thing” – on which he has 30 books.
As these priests demonstrate, retirees can live in the past. But they also know how to live – and volunteer – in the present.


Father Roy joins with brothers

By Tanya Connor

“This is my body, given for you.”
“In to me see.”
Using these phrases, a local priest encouraged about 30 of his peers from around the world to put relationship before ministry.
Father Michael J. Roy said that this year he gave one of the major talks and celebrated the closing Mass at the Fraternity of Priests annual international conference. It was held July 28 – Aug. 1 in the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
The pastor of St. Roch Parish in Oxford said he has been a member of the Fraternity for 28 years and tries to attend the conference each year.
For 24 years he was a member of the Worcester Fraternity, he said. For the past few years he has been meeting weekly with the RoyTONEWEBnine-member Providence Fraternity, since no other priests here are currently involved. (He said he was the only member of either diocese at the conference.) He expressed hope that another Fraternity will start in the Worcester Diocese and said anyone interested can contact him for more information.
He described the Fraternity as a committed brotherhood in which priests encourage each other to live the “10 Kingdom disciplines,” which the conference addressed.
The conference’s theme, “Return to Galilee,” was taken from Pope Francis’ Easter Vigil homily, which participants read and reflected on, Father Roy said. It used the Scripture, “Do not fear; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Mt 28:10) Jesus invited the disciples to go to Galilee because it was the first place they encountered him, he said.
celebrate-logoConference participants were invited to go back to where they first met the Lord and to return to their commitment to live out the 10 disciplines, he said.
Personal holiness disciplines are: to pray an hour or more daily, read Scripture daily and keep a prayer journal, tithe 10 percent of one’s income and fast weekly.
For relationship with one’s brothers, disciplines are: to attend Fraternity meetings faithfully, accept the Fraternity’s leadership and teaching, receive discernment and spiritual direction from the Fraternity, and be zealous for personal, committed relationships with Jesus and brother priests.
Ministry disciplines are: to proclaim the “Visitation Message” (which Father Roy explained means God is visiting his people today with the gifts of the Holy Spirit), and to “empower God’s people in the Holy Spirit,” so they can come to a personal relationship with Christ and enflesh the Gospel message.
Father Roy said his talk focused on relationship with one’s brothers. One of the charisms of the Fraternity is that relationships must come before ministry, so one’s ministry can flow out of relationships, he said. The “hour of prayer” is about the priests’ relationship with Christ, and the weekly gatherings help them maintain that relationship.
“The relationship we have with the Lord, for us as priests, is very much centered on the Eucharist,” he said. “The high point of the Eucharist is when we hold up the consecrated bread and say, ‘This is my body, given for you.’”
Being faithful to weekly Fraternity gatherings requires sacrifice and discipline, “but when you walk through the door, you’re saying to the brothers, ‘This is my body, given for you,’” Father Roy said. He said it’s part of the Theology of the Body, investing one’s person in everything one does. In this case, one is saying, in effect, “Here I am in the body, present for you.”
He said Father Forrest W. Rouelle, one of the early members of the 32-year-old Fraternity, used to say, “I’ll see you in the Eucharist.”             Gathering with one’s brothers helps the priests keep themselves focused and replenished, accountable to one another, with good order in their lives, Father Roy said.
The Fraternity also provides intimacy, which is a dangerous word to use in a culture that tends to apply it to physical, sexual contact, he said. Using a play on words, he said, “The real intimacy is found in this: ‘In to me see.’” It involves inviting someone with whom you can be transparent to see inside of you. That includes Christ, encountered daily in prayer, and two or three of the local Fraternity members, he said.
Father Roy said his talk and other talks were part of three of the days, which included Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, small-group sharing, and worship music that “brings you into the throne room” to listen to God and search Scripture for confirmation of his messages.
July 30 was “brotherhood day,” a chance to go sight-seeing, including viewing a coral reef through a glass-bottom boat, and, for some of the younger men, snorkeling.
It was wonderful to be at the conference, a time of good prayer and brotherhood, Father Roy said. And he called the hospitality of the native people, both priests and laity, wonderful.