Catholic Free Press

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Rutland parish pays tribute to pastor

Posted By October 8, 2013 | 10:05 am | Lead Story #2
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By Tanya Connor

RUTLAND – A parish center built by a beloved pastor and renamed for him Sunday is bursting at the seams.
The center behind St. Patrick Parish, for which Father James Patrick Kerrigan got parishioners to raise the money, was named in his honor after the 10:30 a.m. Mass.
St. Patrick’s pastor for nearly two dozen years had been sick and died in the rectory last February at age 69.
Sunday his sisters, Theresa Shusas, of Worcester, and Mary Lizotte and her husband, Bernard Lizotte, of Buckeye, Ariz., unveiled the green sign with Celtic crosses proclaiming the building “The Fr. Jim Kerrigan Parish Center.”
Parishioner Franz Steiner, of Steiner Signs, made it for the building built in 1999 by parishioner Clealand Blair, of Blair Builders, The Catholic Free Press was told.
“It’s a wonderful honor to my brother,” Mrs. Lizotte said.
Father C. Michael Broderick, Father Kerrigan’s successor, asked those gathered to extend their hands toward the sign in prayer. The  parish choir, led by music director David Twiss, played, “Lady of Knock,” which Mrs. Lizotte said was her brother’s favorite. She said their parents, the late James B. and Mary A. (Baynes) Kerrigan, grew up in County Mayo, Ireland, where Knock, site of an 1879 Marian apparition, is located.
“Somehow Jimmy got the whole parish” singing that song, Mrs. Lizotte said.
Mr. Lizotte said the priest taught him – the French brother-in-law – to play the Irish accordion, or button accordion.
“And he made me play it,” he added.
At the reception he and Father Kerrigan’s friend Eamon Marshall each played a button accordion.
“We thought we’d do it in his honor today,” Mr. Marshall said.
“He’s in his glory now, listening to us,” said Mr. Lizotte.
So was 7-year-old Gavin Finn, apparently. He watched them intently, then started dancing to the music.
Mr. Marshall said he and Father Kerrigan used to play accordions together. The last time they did so, about two months before Father Kerrigan’s death, he suggested they stop after awhile, thinking about the priest having to get up for Mass the next day. But Father Kerrigan wanted to continue playing, and they did so until 11 p.m., he said.
Mr. Lizotte said Father Kerrigan used to say, when visiting them, “I’ve got to go home.”
“He loved this place,” he said of St. Patrick’s. “He didn’t want to leave. And he didn’t have to.”
“My husband and I were in Florida at the time of Father’s death,” said Mary Becker. “We were very close with him, so to not be able to be here – it was quite traumatic.” She said the dedication of the center helped.
“I don’t know that we’ll ever have full closure,” she said. “We worked with him in various areas. … We chaired the Bishop’s Fund for a number of years.” She said she and her husband, Raymond, have been parishioners since they married 43 years ago.
“People couldn’t do enough for him,” Mrs. Becker said. “He is a gem, such a simple, holy man, great sense of humor.” He was always around town.
“Everybody – Protestant, Catholic – everybody loved Father Jim,” she said.
“It couldn’t have happened to a nicer man,” she said of naming the center for him. “This is his legacy. That, and a lot more.”
She said the Diocese was smart, giving them four months to help them get over their loss before appointing a new pastor.
“He is a good one,” she said of Father Broderick. “Somebody had to help fill his (Father Kerrigan’s) shoes. They saved the best for us.”
Father Broderick said he found his predecessor’s sick-call kit.
“It also had names of people he anointed,” he said. “It was in his handwriting. Some was typewritten.” As a pastor, that’s what Father Kerrigan did, he said.
He marveled at the turnout and glanced at one of the tables laden with homemade treats.
“Father Jim’s favorite Irish bread,” he read from a sign accompanying one of them. “Isn’t that great?”
Elaine Munzer, parish secretary, said she worked for Father Kerrigan in that capacity for 18 years, and he performed her daughter’s wedding.
“This building was paid for before we broke ground;” it took three years to raise the money, she said. “That’s how he wanted it. Everybody did a good job of pledging. They wanted this. The need was there – we had no classrooms. We had classes in the rectory … church hall, upstairs in the church. I taught a class in the elevator room.” Classes were held in a public school building too, she said.
“We just got too big – a lot of young families moving in,” she said.
“We are running out of room already,” she said. “When we moved in, it was big enough. Then we started having to move classes to the church again.”
Now all the classes are held in the center, as Father Broderick wants, but all 10 classrooms upstairs are full and dividers section the lower level into three rooms, she said. The hall is also used for bridal showers and receptions for wedding anniversaries and after funerals, she said.
Christine Mulry, coordinator of religious education, said there are 450 students in religious education classes.
She said she’s been a parishioner most of her life, and Father Kerrigan married her and her husband and baptized their three children.
“I think this is a fitting honor for an amazing person and I’m sure he is smiling today,” she said.