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Father Rynne’s Letter PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, June 15 2004 19:00
A letter written by a beloved pastor to his parishioners provides abundant inspiration for this week’s column. His words express courage, peace, and love, enough to fill the hearts of readers with material for reflection and prayer.

The pastor whom I will call Father Frederick Rynne, has been a friend of mine since we first met as high school freshman, 60 years ago. Not only did we share intellectual adventures in the classroom but we played on the same baseball team, he at third base, I on the pitcher’s mound (occasionally).

Even more important, we shared the same spiritual ideals that helped activate our post-college careers. He has been outstanding as a priest who has served with distinction the people of several parishes and, at an earlier time, also directed campus ministry in the Boston archdiocese.

In the last few years, as the archdiocese was torn by the sexual abuse scandals, Father Rynne has assumed a wider leadership, calling for the removal of the previous archbishop and heading a priests’ association that has spurred reform.

His tenure as pastor in his current parish has been marked by devoted service to the people there, helping that community of faith to flourish. He has given serious attention to liturgy and homilies, and to current biblical and theological scholarship. His parish is active in service to others.

Now, however, this outstanding priest has become sick with a life-threatening disease. He has an inoperable tumor that involves a kidney and his liver. Currently, he is consulting with doctors about how best to deal with this serious threat to his bodily well being.

Were I in this situation, I fear that my response would be fear and foreboding. “Why me?” I would probably ask as I searched for reasons for my  fate.

Father Rynne, however, feels at peace despite the diagnosis. “It is not for me a great misfortune,” he writes, “but a necessary part of my life to which I feel called.”

To respond the way my friend is doing takes not only courage but spiritual vision. He sees this latest blow as something that fits in with his vocation. He does not, of course, think that God wants him to suffer but, still, he accepts suffering as part of his calling. As he tells his parishioners, “I have always felt fortunate, blessed by the Lord, and I do now.”

The word “always” suggests that his attitude forms part of a life-long habit of regarding himself as blessed. Now that a time of personal crisis has arrived, he can draw upon a spiritual reserve made up of gifts received from a loving God.

Father Rynne regards his parish as his home and he wants to stay there. He has so informed his archdiocesan superiors, who have shown themselves sympathetic to his request.

As he tells his parishioners, “I love being pastor here. It has always seemed right for me and the conviction that this is part of my vocation has never wavered and still does not.”

He also assures his readers that the works of the parish will continue as usual. Despite his illness, he will do what he can to serve parishioners and will see to it that the priests who have helped there will continue their service.

In closing, he asks for prayers and support, both of which I feel sure he will receive in abundance. I have seen at first hand the way in which his parishioners have supported Father Rynne before now, an indication of how they will respond in his time of crisis.

My friend does not regard himself as a person of outstanding virtue, I am sure. However, I regard him this way. He has thus far lived out his priesthood faithfully and generously, a sign of hope in a period of scandal and grief in the Archdiocese of Boston.  

No doubt there are other parishes where pastor and people are well matched and share mutual respect and affection. To find it in my friend’s parish to such an extent has buoyed up my faith as it has the spiritual life of others. For this pastor to have responded to personal crisis with such faith and courage gives to his parishioners and others who know him a renewed appreciation of spirituality.

Richard Griffin