Today I had the tremendous honor of being able to share in the 50th anniversary celebration of a priest who is also a dear friend. For those who have read my article (my ill-formatted article), you know how highly I regard the priesthood.
I remember months ago, Fr. D. called me and requested that I save today’s date on my calendar. There wasn’t any way I was going to say no. Then about a month ago, he called and requested that I sing in the choir. His request was followed with “you’ll be able to see better from up there.” Again, I couldn’t say no. This man has helped me through some of my most difficult moments, not just as a priest, but as a friend. I cannot count the number of times he would call me, with less than a 1/2-hour notice, to inform me that he was going to pick me up and take me to lunch so we could talk. His sweet, “darling” nature, his New England wit and wisdom, his exuberant love for the vocation that God called him to are only a mere tip of the iceberg when pondering who he is.
When I planned my trip to England in September 2006, unbenounced to me he had planned his yearly Little Walsingham pilgrimage for the same time. We were just going to be traveling a day apart, yet flying into different airports. We decided it would be a good idea to exchange telephone numbers of where would be. While I was looking forward to my trip, it was stressful. By the third day, I was in need of a change. The phone rang and Fr. D was on the other end, wondering when I was “coming down”. That day I rented a car, and the following day I began the 4-1/2 hour journey. I was on my way. My dear Fr. D. thought of everything so that nothing would be wanting. Two days were spent with him in one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever visited. His friends a delight. He’s been visiting this little village/hamlet for about 14 years, I believe, and he’s become an icon with the locals there as he has with the people here. What an amazing gift God has given him–to be able to love, unconditionally, all he encounters.
Today was no different. He thought of everything. He planned his 50th anniversary celebration to include the priests he wanted, the music he wanted, and the people he shares a reciprocal love with to be there. He even gave the homily. I would have expected nothing less from him.
I could equate Fr. D. to the “uncle” or the “grandfather” I never knew, but I can’t. We both prefer to call each other Friend. He’s 84 now, and I know there won’t be many more years left. He is planning another trip to Little Walsingham in December. From our conversations, I think it may be his last trip, as he says, “I am getting old, you know.” Age or not, God bless him. Some day God will call this servant of His home. Fr. D’s passing will be a sad day for all, but there will be cherished memories of what we have shared together. When all is said and done, I will at least be able to say that I have had the most fortunate honor and blessing to have been able to know this gift from God.
As for today, I say Happy Anniversary and thank you for answering God’s call to the priesthood!