April 5, 2019

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Priests’ deaths remind us that faith is stronger than grief

Patti LambRecently, our St. Susanna Parish family in Plainfield lost two pastors, and friends, within three days of each other.

We were stunned to learn of Father Kevin Morris’ death in a car accident and, three days later, we were again shocked to hear of Father Glenn O’Connor’s death due to illness.

Death—especially when it visits unexpectedly, twice in one week—deeply stings.

Combined, these men were with us for nearly 20 years during our highs and lows. Like pastors across central and southern Indiana, they shared joyful moments of baptism, first reconciliation, first Communion and holy matrimony with our families. They buried our loved ones and consoled us in our grief. Both ministered to us in times of trouble, reminding us to lean on our faith.

Each had his own humorous and sometimes slightly unorthodox style, which endeared them to us all the more. They were both unique, from broken molds intricately fashioned by God.

Father Kevin wore a unique vestment on Halloween for the anticipation vigil of All Saints Day. He’ll go down in history for the world’s shortest, but most efficient four-word homily: “Do good. Avoid evil.” And I have a feeling that his prayers might have helped secure a Super Bowl title for the Indianapolis Colts.

Father Glenn’s business card said, “Working to beat hell.” Once, when a fifth‑grade class at St. Susanna School earned a “Donuts with Father Glenn” day, he let them try out a slot machine at the rectory. Every year on Easter morning, after renewing our baptismal promises, it was always funny to witness some unsuspecting worshipper get soaked with holy water.

“Now you’re really holy,” he would exclaim, with that wry Irish smile.

We were blessed with two pastors who modeled the way Jesus wants us to live—holy, big-hearted and genuine in their love for Christ.

By the end of the second vigil, I had wept so bitterly that my eyelids were practically swollen shut. I cannot imagine the grief felt by both families, and by their closest friends.

Then, after discarding another tissue into the trash, I started feeling like a hypocrite. I believe in life, death and resurrection. We’re in the midst of Lent, for goodness sake, and I stood there crying like an overgrown baby.

If there’s anything these two Irishmen imparted to their St. Susanna flock, it’s that our faith is stronger than our grief, and our God, the most tenderhearted, gracious and merciful being, loves us beyond our wildest imaginings and eventually wants us back to himself forever.

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:25-26).

Both pastors read those words to us over the years. So, in our humanity, we grieve. But certain of eternal life, we rejoice for their heavenly reward, and ours to come when God calls us.

It’s a rebuilding time for us, and we’ll do it together. The good Lord knows we’ve got some new intercessors in cahoots up there to bless us.

This Lent, we are reminded in a way very close to home that we are Easter people.

We believe in Jesus’ sacrifice and death on the cross, which restored us to the promise of eternal life.

This is our faith, and we proclaim it.

We are St. Susanna, and our hope is in the Lord!

P.S.—To our friends in Richmond, who also mourn the loss of Father Kevin and Deacon Frank Roberts, God be with you. God be with us all.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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