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Father Bullock As Spiritual Leader PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, November 30 2004 19:00
On his deathbed, Father Robert Bullock made a singular request. He knew that his friend Padraic had quarreled with someone and he wanted to know whether the two had reconciled. “We have to fix it,” he said of that relationship.

Bob Bullock himself was at odds with no one. He died peacefully last June, mourned by members of his parish in Sharon, Massachusetts, by many other residents of that town, and by loads of others people.

In tribute to him and his legacy, Temple Israel in Sharon hosted a celebration last week, attended by some 450 people. Jewish leaders took the lead, recognizing all that Father Bullock had done to promote spiritual understanding and genuine friendship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community. In a program of spoken reflections, video presentations, and musical offerings, the temple lauded him for all that he was.

Father Bullock felt flattered by those who called him “Rabbi,” said television reporter David Boeri. “He could see himself as a descendant of Abraham,” Boeri added, as he told of his pastor’s spiritual stature.

A woman parishioner said of him: “He saw God working through ordinary people.” Another described her pastor as “a moral compass, visionary and wise,” as she gave thanks for his role in her life.

Rabbi Clifford Librach who was Bob’s close friend described him as “a lover of the Jewish people.”  His love showed itself in many ways, the rabbi said. Notably, “the negative portrayals of the Jewish people he took quite personally.”

Before beginning his 26 years as pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows church, Father Bullock had served as Catholic chaplain at Brandeis University, where his feeling for the Jewish tradition had grown and deepened. He also played a vital role in the founding and growth of Facing History and Ourselves, the pioneering organization that has promoted an understanding of the Holocaust and other forms of prejudice against Jews and others.

Being pastor was the work that Father Bullock liked best. In a poignant letter he wrote to parishioners when he knew himself to be dying, he said simply: “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.”

About his death from cancer, he wrote as only a deeply spiritual person could: “It is not for me a great misfortune but a necessary part of my life to which I feel called. I have always felt fortunate, blessed by the Lord, and I do now.”

I count my own friendship with Bob Bullock as one of my most valued spiritual gifts. That friendship lasted almost 61 years, beginning with our high school days together. Knowing him early in his life gave me an almost unique perspective to admire his human and spiritual development over a long period.

That development is what I consider my friend’s greatest legacy. When an adolescent, he showed only some of the personal qualities that would make him so outstanding a spiritual leader. His brother Myron, who was a year ahead of us in school, was the star student in the Bullock family.

But Myron would later write a letter comparing himself to Bob. In that letter he says of his brother: “He was far greater, far more extensive and far, far more enduring. He was wise with a wisdom that cannot be taught and that only a few develop to its full capacity. He was understanding and could penetrate to the heart, the substance, whether of a book, or situation, or person.”

This tribute attests to Bob’s growth into a leader whose own spirituality was large-hearted and solid. What he did in ministry to others flowed from his inner resources, built up over a long time. That helps to explain why he had such an impact on so many people.

I take the tributes to my friend as consolation for losing him to death. The recognition he has received comes as a blessing to those of us who knew him. He went to his grave accompanied by the grateful prayers of the many who loved him and esteemed him for the spiritual gifts that he was glad to share.

Richard Griffin