Catholic Free Press

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  • Oct
  • 6

Our Lady of the Rosary Anniversary

Posted By October 6, 2011 | 12:58 pm | Lead Story #2, Local



By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

WORCESTER – On one side of Our Lady of the Rosary Church is a small brick stairwell. The railings are about two-feet high. An average-size adult needs to stoop to reach them.
These were built for Father Richard F. Riley, who served there for 49 years.
He was small in stature, but larger than life, according to Msgr. Francis Scollen, who spoke about the legendary priest Sunday, during a Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the parish’s 100th anniversary.        Msgr. Scollen, who grew up at Our Lady of the Rosary, described the activities of the parish he knew as a boy.
“Our Lady of the Rosary was more than a neighborhood church,” he said, adding that it was also “a place to learn about God and to learn about his way of living.”
One person who instilled these values, according to Msgr. Scollen, was Father Riley.
Father Riley was first of all a “missionary,” said Msgr. Scollen, who noted he initially traveled to the parish, in the 1920s, on a trolley. Finding a large Franco-American community in his new assignment, he would give homilies in French, as well as in English.
“Nobody flinched,” stated Msgr. Scollen. “He was a very, very smart man.”
Msgr. Scollen remembered him as wearing a biretta and a Roman cassock.
He was also very astute. The other priests living in the rectory noticed he needed a new mattress. So they purchased some fake bedbugs and scattered them on his bed.
Father Riley simply said, “The mattress must go, the mattress must go.” But, in his heart, he knew the bugs weren’t real, said Msgr. Scollen, who explained that he was “ten miles ahead of everybody else, intellectually.”
Msgr. Scollen went into detail about Father Riley’s concern for his flock.
He cared for people in very quiet and subtle ways,” he said, recalling the account of how he attended to a small detail for one parishioner, noting, “He went out of his way to take care of it for her.”
Later, in 1967, Msgr. Scollen moved to Burncoat Street. While he was there, two youths from the neighborhood got into a scuffle. Father Riley, who was very elderly, came to the neighborhood to make sure Msgr. Scollen wasn’t putting himself in harm’s way.
“Are you sure you’re alright?’ Msgr. Scollen remembers being asked. “Do you know what you’re doing?”
Msgr. Scollen, toward the end of his homily, once again reminisced about the parish he knew while growing up. He called it “an extended family of unique characters.”
“Priests were welcome, people were welcome,” he said.
Mrgr. Scollen said the parish, during its 100-year-history, has a tradition of reaching out. “I feel our parish, Our Lady of the Rosary, is known for our service to other people,” he said.
The Mass was concelebrated by Bishops McManus, Reilly and Rueger, as well as a dozen priests with ties to Our Lady of the Rosary, including the present pastor, Father William Sanders, who noted, “When three bishops and a large number of priests show up, there’s something special going on.”
Bishop McManus blessed a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary, located to the left of the sanctuary. He asked everyone to “know her protection and trace in their hearts the pattern of her holiness.”
Following Mass was a reception in the Father Riley Center, across the parking lot from the church.
Longtime parishioners remembered Father Riley, who died in 1970, and served at Our Lady of the Rosary for nearly half its existence.
“He was a great man,” said Marion Smith, who joined the parish 53 years ago, after moving to Worcester with her husband, Vince.
Terri and Chris Wilder of Holden were baptized in the parish, and were also married there 38 years ago. This is where their children received their sacraments.
They spoke about Father Riley’s missionary work in Worcester, where he traveled though the city by horse and buggy.
Mrs. Wilder’s parents, who were married by Father Riley, tried to give him money for the ceremony. He handed it back to them, saying, “You need it more than I do.”
“He was very generous,” said Mrs. Wilder.
“Everybody loved the man,” said Mr. Wilder, adding he would help all, no matter what the problem was.
“He had a personality and he knew how to deal with people,” he stated. “He knew how to bring out the good side of people.”