This week holds the funerals for two distinguished members of our clergy, Fr Richard Mullen and Deacon Vince Slomian. I thought I’d take a few minutes to write down some of the lessons I learned from the time I was blessed to spend with them.
Fr Mullen was a retired priest in the area (in fact the oldest priest in the diocese at the time of his death), and I had gotten to know him through my first assignment even before coming back to town. One of his enduring legacies was starting the practice of Saturday night dinners among the priests in our vicariate. Each weekend one of the rectories hosts a dinner for the other priests. This has been such a blessing to me, and to our vicariate in general! It’s kind of a like a family dinner where all of us can get together (retired priests, pastors, newly ordained) to talk and share fellowship. The conversation usually includes everything from humorous stories to bits of wisdom, practical discussions, current events, and brainstorming for the future. The dinners help us to support one another and work together despite our hectic schedules. They give time to pray and develop friendship. Mull will be greatly missed at these gatherings! I think it can be a reminder for all of us to consciously make time for community with family and friends.
Deacon Vince was a permanent deacon at my previous assignment, and I was blessed to get to spend quite a bit of time with him. He was in our second class (ever) of permanent deacons, and so had a lot of wisdom! One part of his ministry that I would like to highlight is his work with the Peterstown TEC retreats (“Teens Encounter Christ”). These are held for young men/women, age 16-23. Deacon Vince brought so much leadership, fun, and energy to this program. It has born phenomenal fruit in the course of 200+ retreats (I was honored to be the priest for TEC #200 itself!), and I think a large part of that fruit is due to Deacon Vince’s efforts. Perhaps the greatest work he has done, though, is build the program without centering it on himself. With his great personality and length of time in the program it would have been easy for him to do this. Instead, he chose to invest in other leaders and make sure that the retreats stayed focused on the transformational encounter with Christ. In these last years, when his health had begun to fail and he wasn’t able to do everything that he had in the past, I think a great joy of his was to see the retreats continue to go forward. He encapsulated this forward momentum with the phrase “keep coming back.” Re-investing what we have received keeps the program strong for future years. Likewise, staying connected helps to support us in our efforts to live our faith in the midst of a culture that pushes against the freedom and life of the Gospel. Peterstown TEC will miss him greatly. But, it will survive and continue the mission that he gave so much of himself to support.
Thank you, Fr Mullen and Deacon Vince. You will be missed. May your souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen!