His greeting was like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night. It put an instant smile on everyone’s face. I could be having a tough morning but the moment I saw him near my office behind Mrs. Howard’s desk, clad in his signature red Montrose jacket and cap, my day would become instantly better. In response to my standard question about how he was feeling his reply was always the same, “Like a million!”
It is not often that you meet a person who exudes the joy and love of Christ so fully and completely in this life. In fact, next to my beloved mom, I think Fr. Dick was the only person I have ever known who has inspired me to truly yearn for a faith as deep and as wide as that of our Blessed Mother Mary. In our many conversations over the years at Montrose School, he would remind me, “Go to Mary…she knows how you feel and she will bring you to her son who will take care of it all.”
When I arrived at Montrose back in 2008 as the newly appointed Director of Institutional Advancement, I was excited yet overwhelmed. I was a youngish mom of an 8th grader, 4th grader and pre-schooler with a husband who traveled for work. Returning to the professional world was a huge transition after being home with my children. When I think back to the those early, important years on North Street, when Montrose’s home campus in Medfield was just being established, I give thanks for the gift Fr. Dick’s joyful influence. He knew exactly what I was doing each day (and what I was not doing…) and he provided much-needed spiritual support which allowed me to do my job well at Montrose and at home. I chuckle thinking about how he would shake his head when I scurried past his office, “Where are you going in such a hurry?” he would laugh. He always reminded me that the most important meeting of the day was with God. “Slow down, talk to God. Don’t take yourself too seriously – the work will get done. Trust God, how do you think this place has survived all these years?” When I would stop into the Chapel to say a little prayer, I would often find him in the late afternoon just sitting with his Lord. He’d be reading his bible, reclined in his easy chair and completely content and at peace. It is a vision that I shall never forget for it taught me how to pray and give yourself completely over to the love of God.
Over the years, when life became a bit more challenging, Fr. Dick was a steady source of support and prayer. After my two spinal fusion surgeries (within 9 months), he would call the house and check in on me, cracking jokes and reminding me that God had it covered. When I returned to work he was a loving presence of encouragement, prayer and support. I think he might have been my biggest cheerleader – always offering a kind word or compliment about a recent fundraiser or event that I had done. He had a way of making you feel like you mattered – something quite rare and beautiful in this world.
Life took another unexpected turn due to my beloved mom’s stage four cancer diagnosis, but Father Dick didn’t miss a beat. When he saw me suffer due to ongoing back pain and stress from being a caregiver to mom, he went out of his way to offer me the most precious gift of all. He would invite me into the Chapel to pray and receive communion when I arrived late to school due to a doctor appointment. He knew that I desperately needed the strength of Christ in those tough moments and he did everything he could to bring Christ’s light and love into my life. This alone sustained and guided me through the darkness of those days.
As a tiny token of gratitude for all the goodness he gave to me and others, I enjoyed bringing homemade oatmeal to Fr. Dick, which he said was the best thing ever. We had great laughs about the oatmeal because he liked it heated just right, with a bit of maple syrup on top. Mrs. Howard would join our breakfast party and the three of us would sit around my office eating oatmeal, joking and laughing until the front door rang. “Get back to work,” he would laugh. I know that we all worked harder and more fully thanks to the joy that Fr. Dick infused into our daily efforts.
My wonderful memories of Fr. Dick are too numerous to share in this blog but above all I thank God for allowing me to be a student in the school of Fr. Dick. It was a special time at Montrose during those early ten years in Medfield – he taught me simple yet profound spiritual lessons which I shall always treasure. When I close my eyes, I can hear him whisper with a smile, “Love God. Think of the others…the others. Turn to Mary, climb upon her lap, rest awhile – she will lead you to her son. Don’t take yourself or your work too seriously – it’s all in God’s hands. Don’t forget to laugh – joy is the fruit of the soul in love with Christ.”
I could not have done Montrose without you Fr. Dick. It would not have been the same. You taught me how to laugh, find joy in the ordinary and love God above all else. You rejoiced with me in the many accomplishments of our great school and then walked with me to the edge of a dark night – when I lost my beloved mom to cancer. You showed me how to find the light again and when it was time for me to finally surrender to the years of back pain, trusting that God had a plan in all of it, you helped me say goodbye to my job and understand that it was okay to let go. Farewell beloved friend, holy priest, joyful soul. I am sure you are feeling “like a million” as the angels rejoice in heaven over your homecoming this Advent. Please, please intercede for all of us – including my little guy, whom you loved, like all the kids of Montrose past, present and future!